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Free U.S. – Latin America Relation Essay Sample

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Talking about the Isthmus of Panama, many know that it is the narrow strip of land between Costa Rica and Colombia that separates the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Few people know about its history. Isthmus of Panama was characterized by a series of negotiations, agreements, and wars before it became a part of the U.S territory in 1902.When the states in North and South America (Americas) gained independence from Spain in the 1820s, there were efforts by the European nations, especially France and Russia, to colonize the land. Great Britain, due to its’ profitable trade in the region, wanted the United States to issue a joint statement; however, Monroe’s Secretary of State John Quincy Adams persuaded the President to go alone.On December 2, 1823 the U.S under President James Monroe came up with a policy that was stated in his seventh annual State of the Union speech to the Congress. In his unilateral statement, Monroe articulated vividly that the United States acknowledged the independence of the Americas and would not entertain any interference with the European powers. Internationally, the doctrine was disregarded, however the Great Britain’s approval enforced it. Simon Bolivar, the most prominent advocate for all Spain’s American possessions invited heads of the newly independent states to the Congress of Panama that was to be held in the Isthmus of Panama2. From June 22 to July 25, 1826, delegates from Mexico, Central America, Gran Colombia, and Peru attended the Congress of Panama, which Bolivar hoped would establish a unified policy towards Spain. The meeting held proposed a military alliance of the American republics, a mutual defense pact and an intra-national parliamentary assembly. However, in the end, only Gran Colombia (comprising modern Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela) ratified the treaty, thus Bolivar’s plan collapsed as the newly independent American republics persisted on national stance.

In 1846 the United States was negotiating a treaty with Nueva Granada (modern Colombia) that was to grant the U.S important transit rights over the Isthmus of Panama and offer military support for struggles against Colombia. The treaty was negotiated by the U.S minister Benjamin A. Bidlack and New Granada’s commissioner Manuel Maria Mallarino. It was signed in December 1846 and was ratified by the U.S Senate on June 10, 1848. It was especially helpful in economic influencing the Panama Isthmus during the construction of Panama railway in the beginning of the California Gold Rush of 1849.3 The United States knew it was critical to secure an overland passageway between the North Pacific and Atlantic Ocean for both its economic and strategic operations. Great Britain was a major obstacle to this idea due to its vast commercial interest in Latin America. This predicament formed the basis of negotiations that culminated in the signing of the “Convention as to Ship-Canal Connecting Atlantic and Pacific Oceans” on April 19, 1859.4     The treaty was named Clayton-Bulwer treaty after John M. Clayton and Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer, who were responsible for its drafting and ratification. It was able to elevate the United States status to a state of equality with the World’s superpowers and it reduced the British interests in Central America.5

William Walker made extensive exploits in Nicaragua where he legalized slavery, made English the national language, and started ownership of what is known as “filibustering”.6These acts of aggression against Nicaragua unsettled the natives .Walker ruled Nicaragua through the puppet president Patricio Rivas due to the use of a major trade route by sea between New York and San Francisco across lake Nicaragua. Walker was adamant in soliciting support for his decrees, especially from the Southern States in the United States. However, in 1857 he surrendered and was repatriated. Alfred Thayer Mayan emphasized the need for naval strategy, especially in influencing the United States’ rise to dominance. He noted that the Mediterranean Sea had a significant role in both commercial and military influence on the world and that the United States needed to establish itself in the Central American Isthmus before it was too late.

In foreign affairs, President Theodore Roosevelt took the most important action on the Panama Canal7. Interest in that canal had emerged in 1846 when the United States and Gran Colombia signed a treaty that declared the Isthmus of Panama a neutral territory. The Colombian government was unable to build it itself and was in constant feud, such that sometimes the State of Panama was treated almost as independent. The Hay-Herrain Treaty was negotiated by Nicaragua, Washington, and the government of Colombia for a 100-year lease of the Panamanian territory for a canal route. On March 17, 1903 the United States Senate ratified the treaty but this was rejected on August 12 by the Colombian Senate, as the viewed the 10 million plus 250,000 per year compensation as too low.8 President Roosevelt stated that he would support the Panamanian secessionist movement. He sent the naval forces and troops to join the insurgents in defeating the Colombian forces. In November 4, 1903, Panama declared independence and was more than eager to sign the new Han-Bunau-Varilla treaty on November 19, 1903.9  

Eventually, the building of the lake-lock on Panama Canal commenced in 1904. It was hoped that the project would have been done by 1915, yet the people of Panama were overly excited.10 Even though the inter-oceanic traffic had already began ten days earlier, the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty was ratified. The United States Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan and Nicaragua’s representative Emiliano Chamorro signed a treaty giving the US the restricted right to build a canal across Nicaragua so as to avert the possibility of a rival foreign power creating competition by building a rival canal in Nicaragua. During the Taft administration, the agreement had already started, but there was an additional pact that allowed for military intervention similar to the Platt Amendment between the United States and Cuba. Opposition to the ruling of the U.S Senate meant that it had to be dropped before it was ratified on June 19, 1916 and signed in Managua on July 14, 1970.11

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