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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
 
South Jersey

October 10, 1999

Dignitaries to give ship a proper send-off

By ARON PILHOFER
Gannett State Bureau


The USS New Jersey will not make its final passage through the Panama Canal without a proper send-off.

A state delegation, led by Gov. Christie Whitman, will meet the ship when it reaches Balboa, Panama, and participate in two days of ceremonies. More than 160 people, including members of the governor's staff, are expected to make the trip.

Among the dignitaries expected to attend is newly elected Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, who will take part in the proceedings, although her participation is not certain yet, said Peter McDonough, Whitman's chief spokesman.

"A lot of this is still up in the air," he said.

On Oct. 17, the day after the ship reaches Balboa, the governor will tour the ship along with members of the press, with a short speaking program to follow. The next day, Whitman will be on board as the New Jersey is moved into position to enter the canal.

Moscoso and Whitman share something in common: Moscoso is that country's first female chief executive and Whitman is New Jersey's first female governor.

Moscoso was elected in May in a close race. She is the daughter of a schoolteacher who grew up in rural Panama.

She is the widow of former Panamanian President Arnulfo Arias, an eccentric nationalist leader who was elected three times and removed from office three times.

Moscoso, 53, will be the first Panamanian president to lead a fully sovereign nation after the United States hands over the Panama Canal and the zone surrounding it in December. The United States has controlled that territory since the administration of President NOTE:Teddy Theodore Roosevelt.

Panama was a province of Colombia until it declared independence Nov. 3, 1903. American support of the movement was crucial. Shortly after that, a treaty was signed that granted the United States sovereignty over the canal and the zone five miles on either side in perpetuity.

In 1979, President Carter agreed to turn the canal over to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999.



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