Panama Takes Full Control of Panama Canal (Great Events: 1900-2001)
Article abstract: At midnight on December 31, 1999, the United States transferred control of the Panama Canal to the Republic of Panama, as obligated under the 1977 Panama Canal Treaties.
History of the Canal
In 1903, the United States and the newly created Republic of Panama signed the Hay/Bunau-Varilla Treaty, under which the United States acquired the right to build and operate the Panama Canal for all time. The canal, once built, provided an important strategic advantage to the U.S. Navy over its potential adversaries. By using the canal rather than sailing around the tip of South America, the United States could move fleets between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans quicker than any possible adversary.
Operation of the canal meant that the United States also owned the Canal Zone, the narrow strip of land down either side of the canal. This fifty-mile-long (eighty-kilometer-long) zone became sovereign U.S. territory, a physical extension of the United States. The Panama Canal and the Canal Zone essentially split the independent nation of Panama into two separate halves.
The United States built military bases inside the Canal Zone to protect the canal from attack. The presence of U.S. troops in the middle of their country was irritating to the Panamanian people. The government of Panama tried unsuccessfully for decades to restore national sovereignty by reestablishing Panamanian control over...
(The entire section is 895 words.)
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