Panama Canal Diplomacy & Construction II

Lead: In 1903 the United States wished to construct a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. There was a little problem, however. Columbia refused America the rights of passage.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Phillippe Bunau-Varilla was a French engineer, born in Paris in 1859. At the age of twenty-five he joined a contracting firm that sent him to Panama to work on the canal in the last years of France’s great attempt to build a land bridge across the Isthmus. When, through corruption and exhaustion, France turned its back on the canal project, Bunau-Varilla considered this a moral and political catastrophe. He was determined that the canal should be finished, no matter who completed it. If France would not rise to the task, he would help the United States.

In 1903 the Colombian Senate rejected the Hay-Herrán Treaty giving the United States the right to construct the canal in Panama. With the way blocked by Colombian patriotism, Bunau-Varilla began to meddle in Panamanian politics.

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Cuban Missile Crisis III

Lead: Faced with the presence of offensive Soviet missiles in Cuba in the fall of 1962, President John Kennedy assembled his advisors. Their task: get the missiles out without going to war.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: For six days Kennedy and the so-called Ex-comm, an ad hoc group of political, diplomatic and military advisors, had the luxury of deliberation before the world found out about the missiles. At first an invasion of Cuba or a surgical air strike was considered but there was little time to mount an invasion and no guarantee that striking by air would be surgical enough. In the end the administration decided on a blockade, quaintly called a quarantine, to prevent further shipments of missiles and it began a furious diplomatic dialogue with the Soviets.

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Cuban Missile Crisis II

Lead: In the late summer and fall of 1962, the Soviet Union secretly began installing intermediate range ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba. It was an uncharacteristic act of daring.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Having successfully masked his communist leanings during the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, soon after coming to power, began to reach out to the Soviet Union. He needed an ally as a counterweight to the United States whose policy was increasingly focused on restoring freedom to Cuba. Despite its failure, the Bay of Pigs invasion in the spring of 1961 was a clear signal that the U.S. wanted Castro out. He needed support.

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Panama Canal Diplomacy & Construction IV

Lead: Using the leverage of independence to win control of the Panama Canal zone, the United States took a century to give it back.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: After receiving tacit encouragement from President Theodore Roosevelt, French engineer Phillippe Bunau-Varilla, who life obsession was determined to see the Canal built, assured Amador Guerrero, the future President of Panama, that the U.S. would back his revolution against Colombia. The condition for such support was that the Americans have a free hand in the construction and operation of the Canal. In a room at the Waldorf Hotel in New York, on October 13, 1903 Bunau-Varilla offered $100,000 of his own money to grease the process. Amador went home and he and his allies set the revolution in motion. At that time Panama was part of Colombia which had rejected U.S. offers for the canal zone. Panamanians separated the officers of what few Colombian troops were in Panama and on November 6th, with little loss of life, the Republic of Panama was proclaimed.

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Panama Canal Diplomacy & Construction III

Lead: The construction of the Panama Canal depended on the United States securing the right to build and operate it. Such was impossible until the U.S. engaged in a little nation-building.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In August 1903, the Colombian Congress, in a burst of patriotic fervor rejected the Hay-Herrán Treaty. Amid a flood of anti-treaty oratory, Colombians denounced this as a shameful sellout of rights to the Yankee colossus and poured out invective on their leaders who had so violated Yankee honor. When he received word that Colombia wished to re-negotiate the Treaty, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt sent a note to John Hay, his long-suffering Secretary of State, “Those contemptible little creatures in Bogatá ought to understand how much they are jeopardizing things and imperiling their own future.” Hay and Roosevelt began to quietly interfere in Colombian affairs.

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