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ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION SUPPORTS NEGOTIATIONS
Panama City Domestic Service in Spanish 1100 GMT 20 Aug. 77 PA.
[Text.] The National Assembly of Corregimiento Representatives has issued a resolution of support for the negotiations at this stage that is so crucial for the total liberation of the country. The representatives who met with Chief of Government Gen. Omar Torrijos Herrera and the negotiating team yesterday were extensively briefed on the treaty draft concluded by our country and the United States.
The assembly's resolution notes, among other things, that the briefing indicated that the new treaty will be instrumental in achieving national liberation because it eliminates the colonialist enclave imposed on our country 73 years ago, that the new treaty will have a specific deadline, when Panamanian territory will be free of any form of alien presence; and that the results obtained were possible due to the solidary support of Latin America and many other countries throughout the world. The resolution says that the assembly hereby decides to issue an appeal to the Panamanian people at this historic moment to renounce before the altar of the nation all their differences and to consolidate national unity by unanimously supporting the treaty. They urge the Panamanian people to fulfill their civic duty by means of a massive turnout for the plebiscite to cast a vote that their patriotic conscience tells them is a sign of their political maturity.
In addition, political circles of the General Directorate for Community Development [Digedecom] have voiced their support in a resolution, which states : Since the nation has been engaged for 13 years in negotiations with the United States to reach a new treaty over the so-called Canal Zone, and since the agreement on principles for the new treaty eliminates the perpetuity clause and guarantees full sovereignty and jurisdiction over national territory, they support the country's revolutionary leaders and the negotiating team.
Digedecom officials also feel that the next step is to work toward the ratification of the new treaty because it embodies the supreme aspirations of the Panamanian people.
LABOR LEADER ANDERSON INTERVIEWED ON TREATY
Panama City LA REPUBLICA in Spanish 18 Aug. 77, p. 4-A, PA. [Interview with Luis Anderson, secretary general of Local 907 on 17 August.]
[Excerpts.] [Question.) How do you view the attitude of the Canal Zone workers right now and what is the labor leaders' position on the agreement of principles recently reached between Panama and the United States?
[Answer.] To us it has been very interesting to participate in the negotiating process which resulted in the agreement of principles. As far as the Canal Zone workers are concerned, it could be stated that they are generally quite pleased; first, because a treaty has been reached after so many years of negotiations and it is definitely a treaty that meets the aspirations of every good Panamanian-namely, that Panama wants to be a free, sovereign nation with juris. diction over its entire territory.
Many feel that since the employer in the Canal Zone is the U.S. Government there is a negative feeling toward Panamanian aspirations. Our experience is that this is not so. Panamanians who work in the Canal Zone are very much aware of Panama's struggle. They share it and, in most cases, actively support it.
Concerning the labor aspects, there is uncertainty among the workers because the specifics have not been disclosed.
I think that after we hold several information meetings, after we issue public communiques and leaflets and after we use the mass media to brief the entire Panamanian labor force in the Canal Zone, there will be a great deal of acceptance of the content of the treaty.
As leaders, we feel that the protection set forth in the treaty is very adequate, and this is not a rash judgment but a comparative judgment. It is significant that today we have certain benefits and that we have achieved a number of conquests for Panamanian workers in the Canal Zone. Those conquests and benefits have been achieved since the 1955 memorandum of understanding which contained only three labor clauses. Today we are faced with a treaty which includes about 25 labor clauses and none are unfavorable to Panamanian workers. This is indicative of why we accept the treaty.
Today we have had the opportunity of participating directly in the negotiations. We did not have that opportunity in 1955 or 1967.
There is also a great deal of acceptance because the Panamanian Government has fully met its promise of not only seeking to protect current benefits, but of correcting a number of ills existing in the Canal Zone which, despite many struggles, the labor leaders had been unable to correct.
Concerning private business in the Canal Zone, there were 3,000 Panamanian workers whom we could not protect because this area was outside the scope of the law. We were unable to obtain any benefits for them even though this union in particular put all its manpower and funds behind that struggle for the past 15 years. This is one of the issues that the new treaty corrects.
About 82 percent of workers of nonbudgeted activities such as clubs, pools, sports fields and libraries on the military posts were not covered by any labor benefits. This treaty corrects that.
If we view it from the standpoint of just these two specific conquests, we would have to say that it is our only favorable treaty for Panamanian workers.
[Question.] How do you view the social security benefits that will become effective with the treaty ?
[Answer.] There has been some confusion or misunderstanding over the benefits. The treaty does not stipulate any major change in labor benefits. However, from the first day of the treaty, those who start to work in the Canal Zone, whether for a state agency or a U.S. Government agency, will be covered by the Social Security Service.
As far as present workers are concerned, there will be no change in their benefits. The changes that could occur are optional for the worker and that would also have to be explained. There will be several employers in the Canal Zone. There will be employees of private business, employees of those activities that go from the U.S. Government to the Panamanian Government and employees of activities that will be entirely administered by the U.S. Government. All those employees who will continue working for the U.S. Government will have the same benefits that they now have with minor differences such as medical care at Gorgas Hospital. The treaty stipulates that after 3 years no Panamanians will receive medical attention at Gorgas Hospital or any other hospital administered by the U.S. Government in the area. But here we are just saying that employees will receive care from other private institutions in Panama or, if they prefer, from the Social Security Service.
[Question.] What is the status of the workers who will be laid off and what possibilities do the labor leaders see of resolving this problem?
[Answer.] It would be impossible to specify now how many workers will be laid off. However, this is a matter of profound concern to us. In certain areas we have been given almost total assurances that there will be no layoffs and in other areas the very nature of the treaty poses the possibility that there will be layoffs, and this is a matter of deep concern to us.
The fact that Panama will assume complete jurisdiction over political and criminal matters within a maximum of 3 years after the treaty goes into effect means that all the government apparatus which the U.S. Government maintains in the Canal Zone will disappear. The strictly economic and commercial functions will also disappear.
We confronted this reality not now, after a treaty has been reached, but before, when we foresaw this as a logical consequence of a treaty. We proposed early retirement as a means of keeping the loss of employment from becoming a serious problem, not only for the working classes within these specific activities but also within the broader framework of the country's economy. As a matter of fact, when we spoke of a Canal Zone worker and the effects of his dismissal, we in fact said that the dismissal of a worker there would have the same results as the dismissal of three or four workers. Referring specifically to a document published here which referred to [the dismissal of] 3,000 to 8,000 employees, this would have the same effect as the closing of two breweries, Cemento Panama and two or three of the largest companies in the country. We do not really believe that so many employees will be dismissed, but we are aware of the fact that a meaningful number of workers could be dismissed. Let us see now what kind of protection can be given these workers. I believe that they can be given an early retirement so that these dismissals do not become a trauma for the workers or the national economy. In the specific case of the commissaries, we had men. tioned that General Torrijos had suggested the possibility of creating cooperatives that would replace these commercial activities administered by the U.S. Government. This would be one of the many ways to solve the problem. However, these specific aspects would have to be studied as the various stages of the treaty develop. It is impossible now to make predictions because no one has any clear-cut concept. No one, not the U.S. Government, the Panamanian Government or not the unions, have a clear-cut concept of how many jobs will be affected.
[Question.) Is there any possibility that your centrals, in solidarity, will press strongly to influence the Senate regarding the treaty's ratification?
[Answer.] All the unions now operating in the Canal Zone, except the Colón Port-workers Union, are affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The solidarity you referred to has been evident since 1974. Our federation, at a national level, has supported Panama's just aspirations in the United States. This was the result of a proposal which Local 907 presented in the congress held that year in Honolulu. Our federation's support was very real. It was published by the federation's official news media and also by mass communications media in the United States. What we can assure you is that our federation maintains this attitude of support for Panama and that this support is growing with a treaty which definitely protects the rights we have acquired. In my opinion, based on the study of the treaty's clauses, if the treaty's labor aspects, which is what should interest all labor organizations, are observed, we will be committed to support the treaty. The treaty is a document which protects both Panamanian and U.S. citizens. Any possible opposition to the treaty by the labor unions would be provoked by other reasons, not laboral.
[Question.] What, in your opinion, will be the status of the existing labor code and the unions now existing in the Canal Zone?
[Answer.] This question is difficult to answer because we will have to await the legislation to implement the conceptual clauses of the treaty. Nevertheless, everything seems to indicate that the labor code will be applied mainly in the areas of private employment and not in those activities under the direct administration of the U.S. Government. Regarding our organization--Local 907—we operate structurally with the labor code. We have had legal standing since 1954 and have always operated under an administrative structure based on the labor code principles.
[Question.] How does the union leadership view the employment of many Panamanians in jobs formerly considered security positions ?
[Answer.] I think that this is not a matter of human qualities. At this time it is we who run the canal. The security positions are really privileged positions to insure the continuity of U.S. personnel at the job and not because the position required a professional or technological level not obtainable in the Republic of Panama. The apprenticeship program begun in the Canal Zone 16 years ago has trained Panamanians at a level capable of carrying out the efficient administration, operation, repair and maintenance of the Panama Canal. The security positions are a great fallacy. One sees, for example, that in the Canal Zone police there are security positions. The Canal Zone fire department desires security jobs. Certain levels of engineering common in Panama are classified as security positions. I rather believe that the problem of running the canal efficiently will fall in the realm of our administrative systems—the administrative systems applied by the republic as sovereign and owner of the canal-and not whether we have the human resources capable of operating it.
It would be wrong to think that, as Panamanians, we could object to a treaty which returns to Panama the total jurisdiction over all of its physical territory. We could object to a labor clause affecting our interests, just as we have protested in the past over the clauses which presented the full utilization and development of Panamanian workers in the Canal Zone. But we could never object to a treaty which is the aspiration of all good Panamanians, and this organization will back this treaty even if it contains certain clauses detrimental to our interest. What we would do is simply to wage a struggle at a labor level to correct these irregularities.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Javits.
I would like to join Senator Case in stating our appreciation, that is, my appreciation, for having the Senator's point of view. Senator Thurmond has been a longtime advocate of the position that we sim
ply should not have any change in the U.S. relationship respecting the Panama Canal.
I would like to ask the Senator only one question.
SENATOR THURMOND'S ALTERNATIVE TO NOT APPROVING TREATY In view of the record that we have—we have already had some pretty serious riots in Panama—and the electric atmosphere in Panama respecting the canal, and the support which the Panamanian Government has on this issue throughout Latin America, suppose we don't ratify this treaty and these outbreaks begin to occur again. What would you do, Senator? Would you put them down by force? What is your program as an alternative to not approving this treaty?
Senator THURMOND. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, the United States has title to this property. What would we do with any other property when there arise threats concerning it? Are we going to bow to blackmail ? Are we going to indicate to the rest of the world that we are weak and will not defend our property?
In my judgment you are going to have riots. You are going to have riots if the treaties are ratified and you will have them if they are not ratified. I think you are endangering this country more
you ratify the treaties.
I think it is just a matter of time, probably before the year 2000, that you will have steps to force us out. I would not be surprised if an agreement is made with the head of the Panamanian Government, who is very close to Castro in Cuba, between Panama and Castro, and I can foresee where there might be a confrontation down there that might be avoided if we retain control of the canal and retain the sovereignty over the Canal Zone,
Senator Javits. But Senator, how are we going to avoid a confrontation if you predict it yourself? You tell us that we have to shoulder our shotgun and stand on our property.
Senator THURMOND. I don't know any way to prevent riots. There were riots down there in 1964. They rose on the university campus, and Mr. Bethancourt at that time was the head of the university. I understand that outside people came in, stirred up the people, and caused those riots. There were several Americans and a number of Panamanians killed.
As I said, I think you will have riots in either case. But, are you going to let threats prevail ? Are you going to bow to blackmail? There is no question that if we don't have sovereignty-and I said before you came in, I don't know what sovereignty is and I don't know if anybody does—we certainly have practical sovereignty now. We have the control.
In the case of Wilson v. Shaw in 1907, the Supreme Court of the
GENERAL BROWN'S TESTIMONY
strong personality does not include fighting on every occasion. Strong personalities do their utmost to avoid fighting, and if they have to, they are awfully good at it. That is why they are so strong.
I would like to quote to you General Brown, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a very recent hearing before us he said the following:
General BROWN. I think to describe the United States with this action as proof that the United States is a paper tiger, as this gentleman does, is absolutely wrong. I think, rather than that, it shows the United States to be enlightened. I think it shows the United States to be determined to live in the world today, and not in the world of yesterday. I think it shows that we profit by the experience of the Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique, the French in Algeria and Indochina, and ourselves in the Philippines. We left the Philippines for the same reasons that I think we should renegotiate these. It is in recognition of the importance of the Panama Canal that I feel we should do this because we would then be guaranteed, I think, of a better opportunity and guaranty in the future of the use of the canal.
Senator Thurmond, what do you say to this?
Senator THURMOND. Senator Javits, my answer to that is that General Brown, as the other members of the Joint Chiefs, are part of this administration. I have been here for 23 years. I have never seen the military people go against their Commander in Chief, the President. They would ruin their careers if they did. They ought to retire if they cannot go along with him. They do go along. They have gone along in the past.
Let me quote to you that what four retired admirals, and the former Chief of Naval Operations had to say about this treaty in a letter to the President. “Loss of the Panama Canal, which would be a serious setback in war, would contribute to the encirclement of the United States by hostile naval forces and" -and listen to this—"threaten"these are four admirals talking now—“and threaten our ability to survive.”
I would rather trust their opinion and their judgment.
These are men who are not under the gun, and are some of the greatest military people that this Nation has produced.
Senator JAVITS. Senator, their word, and the key word in that statement as I recall your reading it, is “loss." We are not losing the Panama Canal under this treaty. On the contrary, we have a chance to have a more peaceful situation and we are gaining continuity over a very long period of time with an agreement of the people rather than the hostility of the people who live right around the canal.
VULNERABILITY OF CANAL
There is one other thing that I think should be noted in connection with your argument. We are told by expert opinion that one saboteur could put the whole canal out of business. It would not take a Panamanian army of guerrillas or anybody else. In other words, it is very vulnerable to this very alternative which we are discussing.
Senator THURMOND. May I answer that, please!
Senator THURMOND. The four admirals take the position that if you ratify these treaties you will lose control of the canal. You do lose control of the canal: After the year 2000, you lose it entirely; 6 months