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Panama and the United States

The Forced Alliance

Michael L. Conniff

Publication Year: 2001

This new edition of Panama and the United States, examines how relations between Panama and the United States have always pivoted on the issue of transportation across the country's narrow isthmus and delves into the future of those relations now that Panama controls the canal. Historically, Panamanians aspired to have their country become a crossroads of the world, while Americans sought to tame a vast territory and protect their trade and influence around the globe. The building of the Panama Canal (1904-1914) locked the two countries in their parallel quests but failed to satisfy either fully. Michael L. Conniff explores the implications of Panama's newly acquired opportunities and how events since the 1989 U.S. invasion have provided a rich environment for the emergence of new parties, a new generation of politicians, and more democratic business procedures. Panama is now able to re-create its own nationhood relatively free from outside pressures.

Drawing on a wide array of sources updated for this edition, Conniff considers the full range of factors--political, social, strategic, diplomatic, economic, intellectual--that have bound the two countries together. He conveys the viewpoints of leaders in each country but also follows the shifting currents of public opinion. As he shows, the many layers of decision making, opinion, communication, and administration that affected the construction, operation, and turning over of the canal have made relations slow and sometimes impenetrable.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: The United States and the Americas

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-8


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pp. ix-10

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Preface to the Third Edition

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pp. xi-xii

In the decade since the last edition of this book, Panama-U.S. relations have shrunk and become stabilized beyond anyone's prediction, certainly mine. Panama's success following a century of dependence on the United States has been phenomenal, a tribute to the...

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pp. 1-6

Since the era of Latin American independence, the governments and peoples of Panama and the United States have had fairly constant dealings with one another. These relations have not been as tempestuous as those between the United States and Mexico, Cuba, or...

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1. Independence and Early Relations

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pp. 7-23

In April 1819 the Scottish soldier-of-fortune Gregor MacGregor and a ragged band of adventurers captured Portobelo, Panama's northern port for trade crossing to the Pacific Ocean. Acting loosely on behalf of independence forces in the Caribbean, he also...

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2. The Railroad Era

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pp. 24-40

Shots rang out across the Panama City waterfront and the smell of gunpowder hung in the sultry air. Dozens of Americans holed up in the Panama Railroad station imagined that they would not live to see another day. An argument over a slice of watermelon earlier...

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3. The French Period

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pp. 41-62

On 18 August 1885 local authorities in Colon hanged a light-skinned mulatto named Pedro Prestan, ending one of Panama's bloodiest revolts of the nineteenth century, Months earlier, Prestan and another Liberal politician, Rafael Aizpuru, assumed control of...

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4. Canal Diplomacy, 1902–1919

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pp. 63-83

On the evening of 18 November 1903, in Washington D,C, two figures bent over a desk to examine a document. At about 7 RM, John Hay, U.S. secretary of state, had invited Philippe Bunau-Varilla, a Frenchman representing the newly independent Republic of Panama,...

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5. From Gunboats to the Nuclear Age, 1920–1945

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pp. 84-97

Jackhammers rattled through the night. Huge cranes swung tons of gravel effortlessly through the air, Money flowed freely in Panama's boom economy, and thousands of Jamaicans and other immigrants arrived. Uncle Sam was at it again, remodeling the Panama...

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6. Uneasy Partners, 1945–1960

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pp. 98-115

Toward the end of the war, the head of the Caribbean Command, in charge of all military bases in the Canal Zone, put to paper some thoughts on the growing nationalism of Panamanians and their demands to share in the profits from the canal and transit business....

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7. A Time of Troubles and Treaties, 1960–1979

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pp. 116-139

On 9 January 1964, less than two months after the assassination of President John R Kennedy, Panamanian students launched the largest assault on the Canal Zone in history. Ostensibly to force the display of Panama's flag, the action really expressed younger Panamanians...

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8. Treaty Implementation, 1979–1985

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pp. 140-153

A light plane cut through the tropical rain in August 1981, carrying Panamanian strongman Omar Torrijos and a few companions over dense jungles in the central part of the country. Suddenly it plunged into the trees and exploded, killing all those aboard. Searchers...

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9. The Noriega Crisis and Bush's Ordeal

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pp. 154-167

The discovery of Hugo Spadafora's decapitated, mutilated body in September 1985 horrified observers and set into motion events that led four years later to the most dangerous crisis in the history of U.S.-Panamanian relations. For many Panamanians, the brutal murder...

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10. Canal Ownership and Sovereignty at Last

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pp. 169-186

U.S. Ambassador to Panama Simon Ferro leaned across the banquet table to speak with Attorney General Janet Reno. She smiled graciously as several well-wishers took their pictures with her It had been a long, tiring day and Ms. Reno did her best to be friendly and positive...

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11. Beyond the Forced Alliance

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pp. 187-203

In the years following the U.S. turnover of the canal to Panama on December 31,1999, the republic defied predictions that it would mismanage the canal and be lost without the tutelage of the United States. In fact, Panama's economy has grown prodigiously and become...


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pp. 205-226

Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 227-230

Supplemental Bibliographical Essay for the Second Edition

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pp. 231-233

Supplemental Bibliographical Essay for the Third Edition

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pp. 235-236


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pp. 237-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780820344775
E-ISBN-10: 0820323489

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2001

Edition: Second Edition
Series Title: The United States and the Americas