Country of the World Panama Canal Zone

About the Panama Canal Zone, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.

NATIONS AND THEIR RULERS

PANAMA CANAL ZONE

Size: 647 sq. mi. (1,676 sq. km.).

Population: 45,000.

The Canal Zone includes the canal itself, plus a 5-mi.-wide strip of land on either side. Settled and developed, it is also the site of Panama's two major cities, Panama City and Colon. The canal itself is about 50 mi. long. In some places, the canal builders made use of existing natural waterways. Residents of the Canal Zone are U.S. citizens and include 10,000 troops. Many are second-or even third-generation Zonians. A bit of the U.S. 2,000 mi. from home, the Canal Zone is totally controlled by the U.S. "as if it were sovereign." The zone is home to the School of the Americas, a military training school that has provided upper-echelon military personnel to most Latin American countries at one time or another. In 1903, intervention by U.S. Navy cruisers won Panama its independence from Columbia. Fifteen days after the Republic of Panama came into existence, the Canal Zone was created when a Frenchman named Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who had no real authority, signed a treaty with the U.S. granting American sovereignty over a 10-mi.-wide strip across Panama. In 1914, the Panama Canal was completed, and it opened officially in 1920. In 1955, during the Eisenhower administration, negotiations began on a new canal treaty and continued with little success through the next four administrations. Finally, in 1978, a new Panama Canal Treaty was signed and ratified by the U.S. and Panama. When the treaty takes effect in the 21st century, the Canal Zone will come under Panamanian control. However, the U.S. will still have the right to intervene militarily.

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