Secretary of State James A. Baker III says the administration is looking into removing the dependents of U.S. citizens working in Panama, where Americans have been targets of harassment.
Baker made the comments after hearing complaints from Rep. William Lehman, D-Fla., on Tuesday about difficulties faced by both U.S. officials in Panama and workers at the Panama Canal."There is a lot of serious potential there for conflict, for bloodshed, and for the complete breakdown of the Panama Canal operation," Lehman claimed. "I don't think the American people are aware of this crisis in the canal area."
Lehman, who chairs the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, spoke at a foreign operations subcommittee hearing.
Last month, the U.S. military command headquarters in Panama said in a statement that during the first six weeks of this year, Panama's defense forces have "stopped, searched, rerouted, detained or impounded" more U.S. government vehicles than in the previous eight months.
U.S.-Panamanian relations have deteriorated since 1987. Gen. Manuel Noriega, the country's strongman, is under indictment in Florida for drug trafficking.
In recent months, the number of official U.S. personnel from various government agencies has been scaled back.