Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999 22:57:31 -0500 (CDT)
From: email@example.com (Panama News
Subject: the "Red Chinese" threat to the Panama Canal
The Chinese threat: made in the USA
By Eric Jackson
21 August 1999
US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is coming down here on a working
visit. He says he wants to investigate the Panama Ports Company, the local
subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa that runs the port
facilities at Cristobal and Balboa. Why he bothers, I don't know-before he
announced his trip or did the least bit of investigation, he declared that
the "Red Chinese" control Panama Canal pilot assignments and can block the
passage of ships through the waterway.
It might be dismissed as shooting from the hip by an obscure solon
from the extreme fringes, but for the fact that US Senate Majority Leader
Trent Lott chimed in with a letter to Secretary of Defense William Cohen,
maintaining that "US naval ships will be at the mercy of Chinese-controlled
pilots." Lott went on to claim that "the Chinese Communist Party will gain
an intelligence information advantage by controlling this strategic
chokepoint. It appears that we have given away the farm without a shot
And where did Senator Lott get his information? He said he read all
about it in the weekly supplement Insight-which, like its parent The
Washington Times, is owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification
Let's be blunt about this. Congressional Republicans are talking
complete nonsense about Panama, and it's not because they're ignorant. They
have polling and focus group data that show a lot of fear and loathing of
China these days, they can make a pretty strong case that the Clinton
administration took unseemly "soft money" campaign contributions from
Chinese interests and they think that it all makes sticky mud for next
year's election campaign. The accusations that are being made about Chinese
domination of Panama have nothing whatsoever to do with reality here.
They're just cynical myths for domestic consumption.
Sadly, however, distortions designed for uninformed people in a big
country can wreak terrible damage upon a small country. Take, for example,
the corollary to Lott's "we have given away the farm" complaint.
Not "giving away the farm" means not honoring the 1977 Panama Canal
Treaties, something that the far right has been demanding for years. It
means turning back the clock, re-militarizing the isthmus, reducing Panama
to protectorate status and running this country's most precious industrial
asset for the benefit of foreigners. In a word, it means colonialism.
I don't think that the treaties will be abrogated anytime soon.
Bill Clinton won't do that and Rohrabacher, Lott and friends don't have
enough votes to remove him.
The danger is that bilateral relations will be constrained by a
widespread if erroneous US public impression that Panama is dominated by a
country with whom we don't even have diplomatic relations. With the GOP
already well financed for next year's elections, many a timid Democrat will
choose not to refute the gibberish coming from the other side of the aisle.
That may be all it takes to put the Moonies in effective control of the US