THE PANAMA CANAL: The Crisis in Historical Perspective by Walter LaFeber
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THE PANAMA CANAL: The Crisis in Historical Perspective

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Cornell historian LaFeber's finely tuned and eminently readable account of 75 years of US-Panamanian relations begins with the negotiation of the infamous Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903, known on the isthmus as ""the Treaty that No Panamanian Signed."" The document, a ""manifest renunciation of sovereignty,"" has drawn invective and incited riots since the days when US troops landed in Latin America at will. But the impetus to renegotiate, as LaFeber sees it, can be correlated with the later stages of the Cold War; it began to gain momentum in 1964 when the Alliance for Progress was foundering, violent protests toppled the highly conservative oligarchy, and the ascension of the nationalistic General Torrijos made the US skittery about Castroism. But Torrijos is no Castro and LaFeber does not hesitate to pronounce the 1977 treaty provisions between the Carter administration and the General a ""gringo victory,"" or, more judiciously, a ""United States diplomatic triumph."" The badly-in-need-of-repair canal, LaFeber notes, is ""nearly impossible to protect against sabotage."" The Panamanians, moreover, have never shown themselves to be anti-North American by nature. LaFeber's style is felicitous and he has managed to clarify the tangled issues of US disengagement in Panama with remarkable fairness to all sides, even the unreconstructed right (represented by Denison Kitchel's The Truth About the Panama Canal, 1976, p. 1348). Decidedly the right book at the right time.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press