In a prelude to the official transfer of control over the Panama Canal from the United States
to Panama at noon on Dec. 31, former President Jimmy Carter honored
5,000 Americans who gave their lives building and defending the Panama Canal. It was Carter who set the withdrawal in motion in 1977 when he signed treaties relinquishing U.S. control of the famous waterway.
But as the U.S. role in Panama slips into history, many in Panama lamented
the absence of President Bill Clinton at this pivotal moment in history.
Carter's arrival on Dec. 13, as head of the U.S. delegation, was greeted with none of the fanfare reserved for heads of state like Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Colombian President Andres Pastrana.