10, 1999 |
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.