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.