In January 1903 the US signed a treaty with Colombia that would have provided unfettered access to the Panama canal. Unfortunately, the terms were not good enough for the Colombian senate, which refused to ratify it. At the time, Panama had been a region of Colombia for 80 years. Undeterred by the annoying matter of Colombian sovereignty the US encouraged, incited and facilitated Panama’s secession from Colombia.
The newly independent Panama gave its American enablers all it wanted. In the face of considerable criticism, the US president, Theodore Roosevelt, looked to the closest members of his cabinet to help him justify his actions. Unable to articulate a principled defence they simply endorsed them with gallows humour.
“You have shown that you were accused of seduction,” said his secretary of war, Elihu Root. “And you have conclusively proved that you were guilty of rape.”
This was not the last time Colombians would be screwed by the US. Earlier this month several secret service agents and military personnel were embroiled in a scandal with Colombian sex workers. More than 20 have so far been implicated in the scandal after local police intervened in a dispute between an agent and an escort. She said he’d agreed to pay her $800 for the night; he offered her only $30. She eventually left the hotel after being paid $225.
Barack Obama made his anger known. “When we travel to another country,” he said, “I expect us to observe the highest standards.”