WHO OWNS THE PANAMA CANAL?
The Panama Canal, which crosses the central part of Panama in Central America, was built by the United States from 1904 to 1914. Under a 1903 treaty, the United States controlled as a U.S. territory both the waterway and a 16kilometer (10-mile) swath across the isthmus known as the Panama Canal Zone. During most of the twentieth century, the Panamanians resented this arrangement, arguing that their country was unjustly denied canal benefits. Eventually, riots and global pressures led the United States in 1979, under then-president Jimmy Carter, to recognize Panama’s eventual ownership of the canal and all the surrounding lands. Former president Carter and Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso signed documents in December 14, 1999, giving Panama full control of the Panama Canal. The actual transfer to Panama occurred on December 31, along with complete control of canal operations and full possession of the Panama Canal Zone.
Until December 1999, the canal was owned by the US, which in effect created the nation of Panama in order to build and control a strategic canal connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific. In the first years of the 20th century, in exchange for obliging Colombia to grant its province of Panama independence, the US got control in perpetuity of the Panama Canal Zone. But after decades of campaigning by Panamanian nationalists, the US agreed, in 1977, to a staged handover. On the last day of 1999, full ownership passed to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), a semi-autonomous agency of the Panama government – amid dire predictions from some Americans that Panama would not be capable of running its best-known asset.
Under the terms of a 1903 treaty, the United States acquired unilateral rights to build and operate a canal in perpetuity. After years of negotiations, and with the advice and consent of the Senate, in 1977 the Government of the United States concluded a treaty with the Government of Panama calling for the gradual transfer of full authority and control over the Panama Canal to the Government of Panama. That process, begun in 1979, culminates in the final transfer of the Canal to Panama at noon on December 31, 1999. Q: What is going to happen to the Panama Canal on December 31, 1999? A: At noon on December 31, 1999, operation of the Panama Canal will be transferred from the Panama Canal Commission, a U.S. Government Corporation, to the Panama Canal Authority, a Panamanian Government Agency. The Panama Canal Authority will manage, operate, and maintain the Canal, its complementary works, installations, and equipment, and will provide for the orderly transit of vessels through the Canal.