Slow Down on the Treaty

Click to see original imageThe Carter Administration has been spearheading a whirlwind campaign to “sell” the proposed new Panama Canal treaty to Congress and the American public. The push will reach a zenith Wednesday at a treaty-signing extravaganza in Washington, to be attended by Gen. Omar Torrijos, Panama’s chief of government and other Latin American, Caribbean, and Canadian dignitaries, Actually some 24 Western Hemisphere nations have accepted Mr. Carter’s invitation to attend the day’s events, intended to dramatize international support for the controversial treaty. In an opposing action, attorneys general of four states have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President Carter from signing the proposed treaty, contending an act of Congress must precede the signing. The pact, approved as an “agreement in principle” by negotiators of the United States and Panama, would give control of the canal to Panama by the year 2000, but reserve for the U.S. the right to intervene militarily in its defense. As the Herald views it, Mr. Carter’s blitz and the hasty treaty-signing apply undue pressure and could confuse and complicate matters since the document requires two-thirds approval by the Senate. Right now it appears problematical indeed whether the senators will gc. along with the treaty proposals. Public opinion has been widely opposed. One poll, released a week ago, showed mail received by 66 senators was 93.4 per cent against the treaty. A new national Gallup poll, however, has shown increasing support. As this was written, full details of the Panama proposal had not been released to the public. But provisions disclosed thus far make it evident the U.S. will be “paying a lot more and getting a lot less” if the document is ratified in its present form. It’s quite likely that some type of treaty-updating and accommodation of our Panama friends is necessary. But developments thus far have raised a lot of questions including; – Why the rush on the pactsigning when the Senate vote probably won’t come until next year? Wouldn’t it have been better for executive and legislative branches to study and act on the agreement together in a show of solidarity? – Hasn’t the executive department’s drive actually placed the country in a awkward position as indicated by new Panama threats of violence should the Senate reject ratification? – Why were negotiations conducted behind closed doors, with little or no opportunity for public input? 5- Is the Panama government, which has been marked by considerable instability through the years, capable of meeting the burdens of canal operation and expansion if the U.S. surrenders its sovereignty and responsibilities? Who knows what the conditions will be in the year 20007 – American costs will increase substantially under the proposed pact. Shouldn’t these be spelled out in detail, with time and opportunity for full debate before commitments are made? – Many concerned Americans feel the pact could lead to conditions threatening to Western Hemisphere security. Isn’t the public entitled to more data on defense factors than we’ve received? The Panama problem requires calm consideration and sure statesmanship in determining what is just and what is best as well as realistic. We urge our Senators not to be stampeded by haste or political considerations, but to consider the question carefully and fully and not yield control of this strategic canal unless they’re absolutely sure this is “the wise and prudent course.