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Harmodio Arias played a starring role on the Panamanian public scene for some fifty years of the twentieth century. But interesting as his leading role may be, it should not overcast the fact that he was, essentially, an exceptional individual who worked unstintingly and gave his all to serve the Republic.

In his book, The Panama Canal, his doctoral thesis which was first published in 1911, he stands out as a specialist in international law, exhibiting a prowess that had already won him prizes at Cambridge and at the University of London. The chosen theme was one that would absorb - if not to say consume - three quarters of our republican history - the Panama Canal.

He took an interest in this question at an early stage. He worked on it with a dedication that permitted him to anticipate future events. In 1911, before the Canal was yet in operation and a few months before the Panama Canal tolls controversy broke out between the United States and Great Britain in 1912, Harmodio Arias brought his knowledge, talents and vigour to bear in this work of unparalleled scientific mastery which includes, moreover, presentiments of the legal, diplomatic and political vicissitudes that the Hay-Buneau Varilla treaty would later provoke. The skill he demonstrated in shaping

this book, The Panama Canal, succeeded in establishing its author, at just 25 years of age, at the highest echelons of international legal sciences as a Panamanian of vision, of the highest cultural integrity and as a man of firm convictions.

In 1912, the American Journal of International Law, official publication of the American Society of International Law, published a book review pointing out that the sub-title of Dr Arias book accurately describes itself as "a study in international law and diplomacy”. Part I, entitled "The United States and the Interoceanic Canal" presents in its four chapters a useful account of the long diplomatic history which culminated in the building of the canal by the United States as a government enterprise. Chapter 5 deals with the Monroe Doctrine and traces, in addition, the influence of the United Kingdom in the field of interoceanic communications.

Dr Arias conclusion was that the Monroe Doctrine is not part of international law. As stated by Dr. Arias “It is universally accepted, and rightly so, that the doctrine belongs to the domain of politics and not to that of law.” He demonstrated with good reasons that it is merely the expression of United States' policy. According to Dr Arias, it is easy to draw the conclusion that the Monroe Doctrine has been applied to events that had no connection with the elimination of European intervention on the American continent but that had, in actual fact, the intention of increasing the power of the United States who invoked the Doctrine to obtain the use of the waterway for their own, exclusive, benefit.

Part II of the work is an exhaustive study of “The Juridical Position of the Panama Canal" and pays particular attention to the question of Neutralisation.

In his rigorous analysis of the Treaties that established the neutralisation of the Panama Canal, including the 1903 Treaty, Dr Arias gravely points out that "the national interests of the Republic of Panama are so vitally dependent on the question that she could not help being intensely apprehensive of the ultimate position in which the Canal would be placed".

In the judgement of Dr Arias, “it would have been utter ruin for Panama even to consider the possibility of the construction of the canal across her territory, if she did not feel assured that the route would be clothed with the privileges of neutrality." His conclusion in this respect was that when the Republic of Panama entered into the necessary stipulations it was understood that the Canal would be free from hostilities, even in the case of a war to which the United States was party.

With geopolitical vision and from a purely juridical stance, Dr. Arias dealt with the nature, causes and consequences of the notion of neutralisation as applicable to international waterways. His comparison of the Suez and Panama Canals respect of their juridical status brings to the forefront the importance of permanent neutrality for the Panama Canal both then and still today.

In his analysis, Dr Arias emphasizes the point that the Hay-Paucenfote Treaty of 1901 between the United States and Great Britain which expressly recognized the general principle of neutrality established in Article VIII of the Clayton Bulwer Treaty of 1850, had the virtue of bestowing on the Panama Canal the privileges and liabilities of neutralisation, as those adopted by the Constantinople Convention of 1888 for the Suez Canal.

Dr. Arias work was inspired by his vision that International Law is inseparably intertwined with some

other branches of the social sciences. Obviously many of the notions therein contained can not be expounded satisfactorily by mere legal reasoning. Therefore he took into consideration some important factors as the geographical position of the Canal and the global interest that all countries of the world have on interoceanic transit factors that undoubtedly shed much light on the ultimate position that the Panama Canal will be made to assume.

Having completed his academic commitments in London and once again settled in Panama, Harmodio Arias took part in the national debate over the Canal question with unfailing presence and unyielding doggedness. His presentations and arguments with regard to the Treaty and its application were solidly based and were inspired by his firm convictions regarding the true issues at stake. When the debate was technical Harmodio Arias outshined his peers with his formidable legal training and his profound depths of knowledge.

Harmodio Arias was well aware of all that surrounded the arrival in Panama of the North Americans, and of the contractual norms that the United States was seeking, to legalize its presence in Panama territory.

He knew that the circumstances under which the 1903 Treaty had been negotiated and signed were inextricably tied up with a global political order that viewed the United States as a rising regional and world power. He knew that once the civil war ended, North Americans had mentally shifted their attention to focus on their "manifest destiny" - on their belief in the inevitable expansion of their superior moral and intellectual culture - a belief that clearly defined United States foreign policy, not only in the Western Hemisphere but in the world as a whole.

When the debate on these points became charged with ideological concepts and interwoven with sectoral or partisan interests, Harmodio Arias could count on the fluidity of his upright conscience which did not confine him to an unbending position but rather allowed him to respond spontaneously, according to the challenges of the course of events. He brought the same dexterity to bear in his opposition to the Alfaro-Kellog Treaty of 1926 and the Filos-Hines Convention on Defense Sites of 1947.

In 1933, as President of Panama, Dr Arias went to Washington to meet President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to discuss the Treaty and its application and succeeded not only in establishing the basis of a new attitude towards Panama, but also in recuperating Panamanian sovereignty over the electro-magnetic frequencies, abrogating the oppresive policy which denied Panamanians access to their own radio broadcasting stations.

In his memoirs, Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, recounts an anecdote about how dignified was Dr. Arias when he arrived at the White House. Dignity was an inherent quality in Harmodio Arias. In his dealings with the Canal question he was the embodiment of national dignity, affirming that the law ought to play a role in the controverted points, the causes of conflict.

The General Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation that President Arias agreed to with President Roosevelt in 1936 is an instrument that delineates a less unjust distribution of power and lack of power between Panama and the United States.

It declares that Panama has fulfilled its indeterminate and indefinite obligation to provide new lands and auxilary waters for the construction of the Canal, which had

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