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Panama, U.S. Intervention in

Since its U.S.-assisted independence from Colombia in 1903, Panama has maintained an uneasy, sometimes tense relationship with the United States. The United States occupied the Panama Canal Zone, a 16-kilometer-wide swath that the 1903 treaty said the United States would control as “if it were the sovereign.” The Canal Zone bisected Panama and existed as a slice of Americana in Central America, complete with an American high school, bowling alleys, and manicured lawns.

On one side, the Canal Zone provided many well-paying jobs to Panamanians, and the American presence ensured a much higher level of economic development in the Canal Zone region than in the rest of the country. But, regardless of this benefit, the omnipresence of American military forces in the country hurt some Panamanians’ ...

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