Talks between Panama and the United States on the future of the Panama Canal are expected to resume shortly.
SV Cuban representative to the United Nations, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, speaking
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Talks between Panama and the United States on the future of the Panama Canal are expected to resume shortly. At the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday (14 October), Cuba's permanent representative, Dr. Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, gave his government's support to the Panamanian call for full sovereignty over the Canal. He also called on the United States to give independence to Puerto Rico.
SYNOPSIS: Dr. de Quesada said that Cuba fully supported the government of General Omar Torrijos in its defence of Panamanian sovereignty. Under an agreement signed in 1903, the United States controls the 50 mile (80 kilometre) waterway and its surrounding ten mile (16 kilometre) wide zone as if it were sovereign American territory. Talks began in early 1974 to draw up a new treaty but there have been no negotiations since May this year. Panama wants the last American to leave and to take over the entire running and defence of the Canal by the year 2000. But the United States is believed to want a longer agreement. At the present, the Canal is steadily losing money as ships grow size and fewer are able to pass through. Diplomatic sources say that if the Untied States does obtain a new 50 year treaty with Panama, the Canal would be obsolete before it expires.
Dr. de Quesada went on to call on the United States to give independence to Puerto Rico.
The island has the status of a self-governing "Commonwealth" associated with the United States. A plebiscite in 1967 gave a strong majority to maintaining the links with America in preference to independence. But by 1975, there was rising unemployment and economic recession in Puerto Rico. There has been increase in militant nationalism, including terrorist attacks in the United States. Dr. de Quesada said at the UN that Cuba would continue to offer backing for what he called Puerto Rico's "just battle for independence."