Fireworks heralded Panama's sovereignty over the Canal Zone at midnight on the first of October and the United States represented by Vice President Walter Mondale made the first step to a total handover of the vital waterway itself by the end of 1999.
Fireworks heralded Panama's sovereignty over the Canal Zone at midnight on the first of October and the United States represented by Vice President Walter Mondale made the first step to a total handover of the vital waterway itself by the end of 1999. Mondale called it "a new chapter in the history of our hemisphere", but his remarks were booed and jeered by the Panamanians who jammed the Albrook air base for the handover ceremonies. The country's opinions are polarised between a deep resentment for the United States and their sovereignty over what some called "a state within a state" on the one side and near euphoria about the promised economic benefits for Panama when it eventually controls one of the world's most important waterways. However, Panama faces a precarious economic situation, for over a month now the teachers have been on strike for better conditions, and it was feared local unrest might embarrass the handover celebrations.
SYNOPSIS: The teacher claimed guardsmen tries to ransack their headquarters. The Secretary General of the Socialist Democratic Party, Carlos Gonzales de la Lastra, said it was "obvious the government is taking measure to make sure ti does not get embarrassed."
Panama City can't hide its strong American influence. The capital has become a bustling business centre and now its direct income from the Canal is expected to rise sharply, an impressive 400 million dollars (U.S.) in revenue, investments and loans is forecast per year. Almost as much as Panama's gross national product (GNP) or its equally high public debt. A study of car number plates makes interesting reading -- "Panama Soberana" -- Sovereign Panama is inscribed on the latest issues, while numberplates from the Canal Zone still bear the legend "Funnel for World Trade."
And the hope among the people in Panama City's slums is that the revenue from this world trade will be funneled down for their needs. For this is the other side of the capital-- a belt of poor often unemployed labourers drawn to the Canal in the hope of work and fortune.
The contrast in Panama is stark. The slums and the American cars. The riches of some and the squalor of others. Most Panamanians hope that the return of the Canal many make their lives easier.