/** reg.panama: 21.0 **/
** Topic: Panama: Central America UPDATE 06/15 **
** Written 1:35 PM Jun 20, 1996 by cip in cdp:reg.panama **
Central America UPDATE - Panama section
(Home page: http://www.us.net/cip/caupdate.htm)
According to a new study carried out by the U.S. Southern Command -- which is headquartered in Panama until 1997, when it moves to Miami -- the imminent closing of U.S. military bases will take US$370 million a year out of the Panamanian economy. The bases, which must be vacated by the end of 1999 in compliance with the 1977 Carter-Torrijos treaty, bring in this amount through salaries to Panamanian base workers, purchases of local products, and contracting of local services. The sum cited in the SouthComm study is equal to about 13 percent of Panama's gross domestic product.40
Opinions vary within Panama on the bases' closure. In most polls, support for a continued U.S. presence exceeds 70 percent, mostly for economic reasons. When asked their opinion in the case of U.S. refusal to begin paying rent for the bases -- which U.S. officials have shown reluctance to do -- Panamanians' support drops to less than 50 percent.
Opinions vary within the U.S. government, too, on the bases' future. While some in the administration and the military believe the bases are important in the fight against narcotrafficking, others -- such as SouthComm spokesman Col. Byron Connover -- do not see them as essential: "We don't need Panama to do that. It's handy to have, for example, Howard Air Force Base that we can use as a joint air operation center, to help command and control it. It's valuable. It's handy to have a C-5A-capable runway here. But it's not vital to do that."41
Tolls collected for use of the Panama Canal totaled US$450 million in 1995 and are expected to reach US$500 million this year.42 ... Unemployment in Panama is 13.9 percent according to official statistics, and 14.3 percent according to ECLAC. ... 48.6 percent of Panama's 2.5 million people live in poverty. ... The crime rate for the first three months of 1996 is 16 percent lower than the corresponding number for 1995. ... More than fifty police have been fired for corruption and overuse of force since the beginning of 1995.43 ... 2,123 people were arrested on drug-related charges in Panama during the first four months of 1996.44
40 "Pais perdera $370 millones ante cierre de bases." ACAN-EFE. June 5, 1996.
41 Quoted in Bill Rodgers. "Panama Bases / Drugs." Voice of America English-Language Broadcasts. June 11, 1996.
42 Carlos Mendoza. "Canal es pieza clave del comercio interamericano." Downloaded at La Nacion "Centroamerica" site, June 3, 1996.
43 Last four "figures": Centro de Capacitacion Social. "Panorama de la Situacion de los Derechos Humanos en Panama Informe Semestral, Enero - Junio 1996."
44 "Incineran 18 toneladas de droga." ACAN-EFE. June 8, 1996.
Thank you for reading the Central America UPDATE. Please direct all comments to me at email@example.com.
-- Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy
The UPDATE is compiled by the Center for International Policy's Demilitarization Program. It is a semimonthly summary of security-related news in Central America.