Panamanian Foreign Policy Faced with US Military Interests

During the negotiation process, the thorniest issue, one which almost prevented the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, was the United States’ uncompromising position about withdrawing its military forces from the national territory. This obstinacy would become apparent again when some senators refused to ratify those treaties, a process that requires a two-thirds majority vote. It reached the point that the treaties were approved by a single vote.

Through various means and with different arguments, U.S. administrations have insisted on imposing their military presence on the isthmus. Thus, under the pretext that the country was subject to a military dictatorship and with the support of business groups and an impoverished population, the U.S. invaded Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, a tragic date.

The U.S. has been imposing its military agenda since then.

During the administration of Mireya Moscoso, the U.S. imposed the Salas-Baker agreement without presenting it to the National Assembly. During President Ernesto Perez Balladares’ term, it was the Multilateral Anti-Drug Center. Despite the neutrality of the canal embodied in the current treaties, the U.S. has developed military maneuvers with the docile consent of Panamanian governments, based on the overused argument of an attack on canal installations.

Today, under the pretext of humanitarian assistance, the U.S. installed several bases in Darien province and are attempting to install a Regional Center for Aeronautical Operations, supposedly to combat drug trafficking that comes from Colombia and other South American countries. That argument is false. There are seven bases located in Colombia and they have not succeeded in eradicating the production and transport of cocaine and other narcotics.

The presence of the head of the Southern Command is notable in the midst of this situation. He compared the Regional Center for Aeronautical Operations with the military facility located in Miami, Florida, and the fourth high-level security dialogue between Panama and the U.S. held in Panama on Dec. 10, 2020.

In the past year, our country’s foreign policy seems more inclined to avoid contradicting American interests in the Latin American region.

For example, the recognition in Venezuela of the self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaido; the embarrassment of recognizing an ambassador from that phantom government and withdrawing their credentials afterwards; the refusal to recognize the elections that renewed the parliament in Venezuela, even though hundreds of renowned observers found no irregularities in that civic event; the vote in favor of a U.S. representative for the presidency of the Inter-American Development Bank; visits from senior U.S. government personnel without the public ever knowing the content of those conversations; the recent meeting between a Panamanian minister of foreign affairs and Juan Gonzalez, National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere; and the growing economic indebtedness to the northern colossus are all elements that cause us deep concern.

The president must keep in mind that his duty, above all, is to defend national interests, Panamanian dignity and sovereignty, and to always remember that American administrations have no friends. They defend their geopolitical and economic interests. From the top of Ancon Hill to the rhythmic waving of our national flag, Cmdr. Omar Torrijos, architect of our independence, and the martyrs of Jan. 9, who gave their lives to integrate our territory without a foreign military presence, are watching.

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