Panama since the Turnover of the Canal: Successes and Failures

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:20 AM
Columbia Hall 3 (Washington Hilton)
Michael Conniff, University of Florida
Since the United States turned its Isthmian canal over to Panama in 1999, the latter nation has enjoyed surprising successes, both operating the canal and growing its economy. It has undertaken a major overhaul of the Panama Canal that promises both domestic prosperity and a much larger share of world shipping when inaugurated next year. Multi-national firms have converted Panama into a major economic hub for the hemisphere, driving extraordinary growth of the GDP. New investment in infrastructure promises continued expansion. Moreover, it has held two national elections, in which opposition parties won the presidency. In all this the United States, which had imposed protectorate status on Panama for most of the twentieth century, has remained largely on the sidelines. A comparison with other colonial “disengagements” demonstrates the wisdom of the treaties of the late 1970s and of the implementation over the following two decades.