Finding Forever on the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal Purchase Act enacted on June 28, 1902, authorized United States Government to purchase the rights, privileges, franchises, concessions, grants of land, right of way, unfinished work, plants, and other property, real, personal, and mixed, of every name and nature in a Panama project.

All this “from the French New Panama Canal Company at a cost not exceeding $40 million.”

It was located on the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean.

Additional provisions indicated that United States would control the canal and a strip of land around it “in perpetuity”. The French attempt to build the canal was based on their previous experience in Egypt with the Suez.

Panama, however, proved a tougher challenge and the enterprise went bankrupt. The French could not cope with the malaria spreading mosquitoes and with the frequent landslides. Because the economic benefits were obvious, the U.S.A. decided to step in.

Columbia, for its part, refused to play ball.

When the Colombian parliament said no to the Gringos, the Panamanians suddenly decided to become independent. The US Navy was ordered to take a tropical cruise and find a nice beach along the coast of the newly formed country. With the sea lanes blocked the Colombians had to let Panama go.

In 1914, after extraordinary feats of engineering and mosquito eradication, the canal was inaugurated. On December 31, 1999, United States returned the control of the canal to Panama.

Perpetuity, in this case, lasted 85 years.  You are welcome, Panama!

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