Central America and the U.S.A.

Archive Report

New Focus from Canal Debate

Region's Relations With the United States

The recently concluded Senate debate on the Panama Canal treaties has drawn unaccustomed American attention to what may be the least known region in Latin America. The countries of Central America and Panama,1 which link the North and South American continents, have been a true backwater in American eyes for more than a century. Alternatively labeled “banana republics” and “two-bit dictatorships,” the Central American nations have presented a classic panorama of political stagnation and economic underdevelopment since winning their independence from Spain in 1821. To Americans in general, Central America has seemed remote, unimportant and vaguely troublesome.

The view from north of the border is deceptive. The United States, both through its government and its private ...

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