Panama Canal Treaties of 1977

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Panama Canal Treaties of 1977

The Panama Canal Treaties of 1977 (also the Carter-Torrijos Treaties), abrogated prior treaties, established joint administration and defense of the canal, and designated December 31, 1999, as the date the United States would turn the canal over to Panama. The 1977 treaties culminated fourteen years of talks between the two countries. They borrowed operating principles from earlier drafts initialed in 1967. U.S. president Jimmy Carter made treaty revision a priority and lobbied hard for ratification, achieved in 1978 after a long debate and a close vote.

The main treaty created a Panama Canal Commission to replace the Panama Canal Company and Government. The commission is headed by an administrator chosen by the U.S. president. Policy is set by a board of directors made up of five U.S. and four Panamanian members. In 1990 U.S. president George Bush appointed Fernando Manfredo, a Panamanian, to succeed General Dennis "Phil" MacAuliffe, who had served as administrator throughout the 1980s. Soon, however, Manfredo was replaced by a permanent administrator, Gilberto Guardia. In addition, more than 60 percent of the former Canal Zone was returned to Panama, and the remainder was renamed the Panama Canal Area. Most public services there (courts, fire stations, police, sanitation, schools, and post offices) were taken over by Panama during the 1980s. The United States pledged to train Panamanians to assume management of the canal during the course of the treaty.

The second treaty guarantees the neutrality of the canal into the twenty-first century. The United States and Panama share defense responsibilities, while many other countries signed a protocol pledging their agreement.

See alsoPanama Canal .


Conniff, Michael L. Panama and the United States. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Farnsworth, David N., and James W. Mc Kenney. U.S.-Panama Relations, 1903–1978: A Study in Linkage Politics Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983.

Jaén Suárez, Omar. Las negociaciones sobre el Canal de Panamá, 1964–1970 Bogotá: Grupo Editorial Norma, 2002.

Jorden, William. Panama Odyssey. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984.

                                         Michael L. Conniff