Contributed by: Don Winner
By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Thousands of Panamanians and foreign dignitaries are in Paraiso next to the Panama Canal to witness the start of the expansion of the Panama Canal. People are still filtering in to the area, and the schedule calls for Panamanian President Martin Torrijos to push a button that will set off 30,000 pounds of explosives, taking the top off of a hill on the other side of the canal, marking the official and ceremonial start of the construction of the expansion of the Panama Canal. (more)
To Watch It Live: A great number of people have gathered in Paraiso to see it with their own eyes, and in reality this is a historic moment for Panama. The emphasis on the news coverage is talking about sovereignty - that the Panama Canal is now in Panamanian hands, being run by Panamanians and how the expansion of the Canal is a Panamanian project. This event is one more reminder that the United States is out of the picture and the Panama Canal is now a totally Panamanian "thing." That being the case...
No Way It Starts On Time: The schedule calls for the button to be pushed at 11:00 am. Of course, considering "Panamanian time" I suspect it will actually go off sometime between 11:30 or 11:45 or so. You know, as it should be.
Hot Sun: So far there have already been a couple of people who have dropped due to the hot sun and heat exhaustion. There is a good security presence to include police, fire department, and SINAPROC to help anyone who needs it and for crowd control. I don't expect there will be any major incidents in what is basically a good-news staged event. The unexpected is always possible, of course. The part about "30,000 pounds of explosives" caught by ear, but I'm sure they have taken every precaution. Or at least I hope they have.
The First of Two Big Dates: Everything that happens between now and the official opening of the new canal in about 2014 or so will be simply details. Today is the "big day", and there won't be another one that really matters in relation to the expansion of the canal until it's done. There will be incremental steps, completion of contracts, accidents, deaths, and problems, but the next thing that really matters is when the new canal starts to operate.
Copyright 2007 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.