Leadership on The World Stage

Buffoonery on the world stage is an unfortunate blip in world history, which hopefully the world will survive as it has in the past. Geographically, at the center of the world is the tiny country of Panama. The great liberator of most of Latin America, Simon Bolivar, once said that if the world were to have a capital it would be Panama.

This morning CNN led with a story, breaking news, that China wants to become the world power. And this is news? Come on folks! It’s obvious that the U.S., Russia, and China are all vying to to be the world power. If we learn anything from history it is that things always change and nothing lasts forever. World powers come and go. Some focus on the past and others leverage the past to focus on the future.

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China is quietly investing in projects that will position it to be the world power of the future. Whether or not the Nicaragua Canal ever materializes as a functioning entity or not, it is one block in China’s plan. Panama has now given up its recognition of Taiwan, which although remaining closely aligned with Taiwan, officially recognizes The Peoples Republic of China, which happens the be the second largest customer of the Panama Canal [The US is the biggest customer]. Less than ten months into this new relationship with China, Panama is signing a flurry of agreements for cooperation, including feasibility studies for a China-financed high speed train between Panama City and Chiriqui, and the construction of a new Chinese super port that will facilitate increased trade taking advantage of the now-expanded Panama Canal. For the record, Panama doesn’t just talk about infrastructure, but produces … the expanded Panama Canal; the now 4-lane Pan American Highway through Panama; the Panama City Metro with one line operating [35 cents a ride!!], line two nearing completion, and line three in the planning stage; soon to be three new stunning bridges across the Panama Canal linking the continents; Tocumen International expansion moving toward completion that will more than double the capacity of “The Hub of The Americas, and the list goes on!

In this fascinating interview with the President of tiny Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, he talks about Panama’s new relationship with China, and offers a careful, thought-out, intelligent view of Panama’s role at the center of the interconnected global trade.

Varela references the Summit of The Americas in Panama which provided the opportunity to begin the dialogue between President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro, opening the door for U.S. citizens to visit our next-door neighbor. Since I will be returning for a third season cruising around Cuba in a few months, I’m very interested in what happens in Cuba and the U.S. relationship with Cuba, which has deteriorated post-Obama. Cuba needs everything. And there is this enormous vacuum in Cuba. There are three logical players to fill that vacuum: the U.S., China, and Russia. All the beautiful new tourist buses in Cuba – with rest rooms that actually work! – are Chinese. China is building a much-needed new cruise terminal in Havana [and by the way China, Panama City could use a cruise terminal as well]. Right now Russia is meeting with Cuba developing strategies for cooperation. The U.S. struggles to turn back the clock, obliterate any progress that was made by Obama, and continue a failed policy which hasn’t worked and won’t work. We sit back and let China and Russia have their way with our next-door neighbors.