END OF ERA -- Panama Canal Transfer Ceremonies                         [p4 of 5]


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End of Era - Panama Canal Transfer Ceremonies -- Continued


But, according to Henry Raymont's reporting out of Washington, it was the White House who had recommended to Panama December 14 as the date for the ceremony. To wait until the week before the reset date before making it known that he would not be going, Clinton apparently was not doing Panama any favors. Panamanian protocol officials were reported to have waited until virtually the last minute not knowing whether or not they could send out ceremony invitations in the names of both presidents. That explains, reported Raymont (December 12), why both the Panamanian Embassy in Washington and its mission at the United Nations were sending invitations to diplomats by fax in the name of the President Moscoso and Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Aleman.

El Panama America's Washington Correspondent Henry Raymont noted that the indecision and constant changes in the delegation list was leaving diplomatic and Latin American observers wondering whether the Administration was considering the canal transfer event of significant magnitude in the history of inter-American relations (December 12, 1999). He reported that the casual manner in which the White House approached the subject of the canal transfer had caused astonishment and no little indignation in diplomatic and academic circles.

Then too there was the on and off again speculation in at least the Panamanian media about whether Cubas's Fidel Castro would be invited with some speculation that he would be (Panama does recognize Cuba). That kind of talk added more speculation that President Clinton would not attend if Castro was invited. That was supposedly squelched with the decision to invite only members of the Organization of American States -- and Cuba has not been a member since the OAS kicked the country out in 1961.

Not many south of the border have given even some modicum of credence to stated reasons. Many took the two most prominent no-shows more personally, as reported by the Panamanian media as well as that elsewhere in the region.

President Moscoso said she regretted Clinton not attending but understood he had other priorities to his country but was pleased with the presence of Jimmy Carter.

Panamanian Foreign Minister Aleman said he felt deceived by the lack of Clinton's presence at the ceremony but it would not tarnish the historic celebration for Panamanians.

Former Panamanian Vice President Arias Calderon said Panama feels unappreciated by Albright's cancellation.

French Countess Tauni de Lesseps was quoted in the Panamanian press and television as saying the President Clinton was rude in not attending the ceremony.

Many commentators and pundits around the region considered Clinton's and Albright's absence a missed historic opportunity for the United States, according to the State Department's Foreign Media Reaction Branch.  Many editorialists in the region asserted that it signifies the U.S. purported "disdain" toward Latin America.




This page last updated:  July 4, 2008
Site developed, owned and maintained by 
William H. Ormsbee, Jr.
1999-2001 / 2005-2008





Transfer Ceremonies

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PANAMA CANAL (1914-1999)