President Bill Clinton's decision not to attend today's ceremonies or to send his secretary of state shows a lack of statesmanship and sense of history. With the end of the age of imperialism, handing the canal over to Panama became as inevitable as Britain's handing Hong Kong back to China. The United States owes it to Panama, a small republic with which we have had long and close relations, to show style and grace in meeting our treaty commitments. Even as Panama takes over ownership and operations of the canal on 1 Jan, an indirect US security commitment remains. A US "reservation" to the 1977 treaty allows the United States to "take such steps as necessary" to reopen the canal or restore operations should normal operations be interrupted. It is a useful reservation that neither side ever expects to be invoked.
Ceremonies in Panama today will mark the formal transfer of the Panama Canal to Panamanian control. Our advice to anybody worried about this: consider the alternative, which is worse. It would be folly for the United States to try to hang on to the canal, as Congress recognised when it approved the transfer two decades ago. That would leave our country vulnerable to all the old accusations of colonialism, and give leftists of all stripes in Panama a pretended grievance to rally around (US possession of the canal was long an excuse for a riot when nothing else would do).
Los Angeles Times
The historic turnover is being widely celebrated in Latin American countries, which historically viewed the waterway as a colonial outpost, despite the trade it developed in the Central American isthmus during almost a century under US authority. The event has raised barely a ripple in the United States, which will continue to benefit from trade through the waterway. What thunder there is comes from the far right, which argues that the hand-over will symbolise weakness and diminish US standing in Central and South America.
In fact, the Canal Zone never belonged to the United States. Even though the final transition is unlikely to cause a blip in operations, an historic period will have passed - a change that should be good for the Americas.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The transfer of the canal is an historic moment. It is also an opportunity to redefine American leadership. It is time for America to bid farewell to its military outpost of state socialism and assist Panama in its dream of creating a modern tourist and transportation link - a western hemisphere Singapore that will bind together a democratic free-trade area of the Americas. This would be a model for the 21st century as grand as the construction of the canal was for the 20th century. We have reason to be proud of the canal, but ours is a country that does not rest on its past achievements; we aim to shape the future. A magnanimous transfer and a durable partnership with Panama would show the world that our leadership will endure. (Robert A. Pastor)
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
It's a shame that the turnover of the canal is not big news in the United States, because it's a landmark event in Latin America. It's deeply significant to the hemisphere because the canal has served as a superb symbol of American can-do spirit. But the 50-mile-long man-made passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans has also been a symbol of an era of American colonialism.Reuse content