February 4, 2002 - El Panamá América: Jack Vaughn, An American Who Defended Panama

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Panama: Peace Corps Panama : The Peace Corps in Panama: February 4, 2002 - El Panamá América: Jack Vaughn, An American Who Defended Panama

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, April 12, 2002 - 2:21 pm: Edit Post

Jack Vaughn, An American Who Defended Panama

Many thanks to Elaine Samaniego for providing us with this translation of the recent article that appeared about former Director Jack Vaughn in the Panamanian newspaper, El Panamá América, at:

Vaughn, An American Who Defended Panama*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Vaughn, An American Who Defended Panama

Enrique Lusi Brathwaite El Panama America

If we speak of Jack H. Vaughn, very few Panamanians will recall his name. However, the figure of this United States diplomat with a long career was intimately connected to one of the most important causes of the Panamanian people: the securing of their total sovereignty.

Perhaps Vaughn no aspired to so much, but that seed that he planted in his moment to guarantee that justice be done for Panama, germinated that 7 of September, 1977, the day of the signing of the historic treaty Torrijos-Carter.

In his seventies, but with a humor of adolescent, he admits that his idea put forth in favor of the panamanian cause subjected him to be labeled loco, as much by the armed forces of his country as by members of the State Department. In spite of this, he never left off expounding at every opportunity the necessity of reforming the relations between Panama and the United States.

Jack Vaughn was in Panama during the presentation of the work “The Negotiations Regarding the Panama Canal,” of the writer Omar Jaen Suarez, considered the most important documented source regarding the diplomatic history of Panama. On this occasion, he was not surprised by the revelations made about its role in part of Panamanian history.

For the questions of why a U.S. diplomat would be defending with such energy the struggle of Panama to obtain more benefit in the relationship that the presence of the U.S. in the Isthmus represented, he told the Panama America that he lived in this country for five years (between 1951 and 1956) when he met his best friends, that he still keeps.

“I lived here in a successful and comfortable way, dedicated to agricultural activities and as I was not a member of the U.S. military, I understood that now was the moment to change the relation, the cut of the pie, that Panama was receiving for the Canal” he commented.

The relation Panama-United States, he expressed, was so unjust that he had to convince his compatriots that it was now the moment to give a radical turn to this relationship “and I had to fight at this moment against my people.”

But the task of Vaughn was not easy, for reason that he had to do it at a time when no one and much less the armed forces of the U.S. was in the mood to offer concessions because of the coincidence of the Viet Nam war.

“It was a time of total war when the Pentagon was thinking of nothing else, like revising agreements or other annoyances like these, because they needed the military bases for training the troops,” he explained.

However, and in spite of not having influence, such as those possessed by the Secretary of Defense and the chief of the Southern Command, Vaughn continued with his preaching that, it seemed, sifted through when in a meeting of diplomats of the hemisphere, taking place in Brazil, Fernando Eleta, (foreign minister of Panama) put forth serious questions to the Secretary of State of the United States.

Those proposals were in time repeated by the same Vaughn to President Lyndon Johnson, who up to a point was aware of the stubbornness of the military .

Here things did not progress very much. Until in 1964 when occurred the fateful events of the 9th of January, of which incidentally Vaughn had warned President Johnson years before.

It was after that difficult period that Jack Vaughn, now in his post of Undersecretary for Latin American Affairs, contributed with the panamanian side that had initiated negotiations to change the direction of the relations between the two countries. “Although my role in the negotiations of the final treaty was minimal,” the ex-diplomat hastened to clarify.

He adds that, by coincidence, it was an ex-military man, President Jimmy Carter, who years later understood that it was necessary to do justice by heeding the demand that was pushed forward by the panamanians.

Vaughn concludes that then he took part and helped the negotiating team of Panama exchanging advice. And it is that “I had the same viewpoint as Fernando Eleta, and sometimes we would sing together according to the song of Armando Manzanero that says “I Learned with You.”

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