Saturday, 14 March 2020

el tratado herrán-hay

Negotiated earlier in January of the same year between US Secretary of State John M Hay and Colombian chargé d’affaires Tomás Herrán y Mosquera, the eponymous treaty was ratified by the US Senate on this day in 1903.
Had the terms also been acceptable to the Colombian government—historians felt that Herrán’s deal undervalued the potential economic boon for the country and that they had a commanding bargaining position since he had acted without legislative or business oversight, the US would have been allotted a hundred-year renewable lease of a strip of land crossing the isthmus of Panama with permission to excavate a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Colombians rejected the ten million dollar down payment plus a quarter million in annual rents, payable in gold bullion, especially considering that the US had already intimated their willingness to invest quadruple that amount in the project, which had been started back in 1881 by the French engineers that had built the Suez Canal to the Red Sea but later abandoned as unworkable. The US refused to renegotiate the treaty and instead provoked civil unrest in the region and lent military support for eventual Panamanian independence, acquiring the rights to proceed with construction under similar terms what was originally agreed upon. The American crews experienced the same hardships and toil as the French had encountered and the canal’s building—finished more than a decade later—was the origin of the phrase “another day, another dollar” for the low wage that workers were paid for this gruelling labour.