When the United States Senate approved the new Panama Canal treaties earlier this year, the prevailing view from the protreaties side was that America was ushering in a new era of peace and harmony with Panama, indeed with the whole of Latin America. The new treaties, Americans were told by president Jimmy Carter and others, assured the smooth, orderly transition of control of the canal from. the United States to Panama by stages, to be completed by the year 2000. Reality is far from this cosy-hued picture, however. Events taking shape right now in Panama indicate that there could be big troubles just over the horizon on the isthmus. After 10 years of military rule, Panama is about to revert to its customarily volatile political climate. And when the dust finally settles, the U.S. position at the strategic world crossroads could be on extremely shaky ground much sooner than most people expected.
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