A Trip to Argentina

As a result of the Torrijos-Carter Treaty dated September 7, 1977, the former Panama Canal Zone was turned over to Panamanian jurisdiction.  The relinquishment of jurisdiction became effective midday December 31, 1999.

Panama was interested in converting several U.S. military bases into private industrial parks similar to the ones in the Philippines Islands.  Panamanian delegations were sent to the Philippines to see how Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base were converted into civil investments projects after DOD officially shuttered the facilities in 1991 and 1992. Following its closure in 1992, both bases were transformed into huge free port zones by the Philippine government.

The only active U.S. military operation in the Philippines has been a U.S. special-operations task force supporting Filipino forces in their ongoing campaign against Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim extremist groups in the southern part of the country. I understand that the United States military is again welcome to use Subic Bay and the sprawling Clark Air Base, two decades after the installations were abandoned due to political friction with Manila.

Philippine Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta said U.S. troops, ships and aircraft can make use of the old bases, as long as prior approval is granted by the government. The United States had key bases in the Philippines for decades after World War II, but relations broke down in the early 1990s, and the facilities were returned.

We were interested in alluring credit unions to become part of the free port zones in Fort Clayton and Howard Air Force Base.  These sites had high technological infrastructure; specially fiber optics and a first class landing strip in Howard for large planes.  To carry out this goal I traveled to Puerto Plata in Argentina to discuss our conversion program with Latin American credit unions members of the Organization of American Credit Unions—OCA (Organización de Cooperativas de América).

I traveled to Argentina as Deputy Vice-Minister of Economics and Planning representing the Republic of Panama.  My briefcase was loaded with valuable presentations to explain the advantages of investing in Panama.  It was a slow process, but I’m happy to say that at present times, both military bases have been successfully transformed into strategic private investments free zones.

When the expansion of the Panama Canal is accomplished sometime in 2015 to accommodate Post-Panamax vessels, the Isthmus of Panama will consolidate its strategic commercial position.  Panama will become the commercial hub of the Americas receiving air and maritime traffic from all over the world.  We expect to become the next Singapore of Latin-America.

Below are some pictures of my trip to Puerto Plata in Argentina in 1992.  As I’ve said before, 1990-1995 were the most productive years of my professional life.  I wished I were granted more time to fulfill other significant projects planned by the Endara Administration.  There was so much to be done during the reconstruction period after the downfall of the military regime in 1989.  However, there’s no use crying over spilled milk.  What happened, happened.

This shot was taken in Buenos Aires, on our way back from the Puerto Plata hemispheric conference. The gentleman on my left is a representative from the government of Ecuador. We exchanged many interesting ideas during the conference. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot in front of our hotel in Puerto Plata, Argentina during a brief recess between the long meetings, work groups, and presentations. Yours Truly is last from left to right. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Here I am (left) with the president of the OCA regional conference (middle)  and the representative of the Ecuadorian government (right). The weather was pretty cold during our stay in Puerto Plata. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

8 thoughts on “A Trip to Argentina”

  1. Hi,
    Do you remember SCN-TV, the AFRTS TV station with its studio at Ft. Clayton? I was stationed there in 1971-72 and worked at the studio and at the transmitter building on top of Ancon Hill.
    I know that in 1972 Panama City had at least one other TV station. I wonder if, after 1999, did Panama take over SCN and run it as a second commercial TV station for the area?
    That’s how I found your blog about a year ago: I was looking for photos of Ancon Hill, and you had recently posted some from the park there. I guess the transmitter building in no longer being used???
    I have enjoyed many of the photos of the city that you have posted, especially ones of the fishing boats in the bay.
    Terry Wallick
    Oliver Springs, Tennessee, USA

  2. Hi Terry:

    Of course I remember SCN-TV “American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service” with its studio at Fort Clayton. It was known to us as Channel 8. The Armed Forces had a similar TV station broadcasting on the Atlantic Side as well.

    I followed Channel 8, because they had several U.S. live broadcasts , like the Superbowl, Saturday Evening Live, The Johnny Carson Show, Soul Train, and other TV programs that slip my mind at this moment.

    After the Canal Zone was turned over to Panama, the TV studios were dismantled and are not transmitting anymore. In 1972 there was TV2 (Televisora Nacional) and RPC Television (Channel 4) broadcasting in Panama City. As a matter of fact, they are still on the air even as we speak.

    I’m not aware if the transmitter building on Ancon Hill is being used. I have a feeling it is not.

    Best of luck,


  3. I don’t have any knowledge of the radio stations but there was a similar operation in Sendai, Japan when I was over there. We listened to that station because it always played American Hits. Remember, Johnny Ray’s “Cry” and Pat Boone’s songs (he has turned out to be a pain in the arse politically). Anyway, it was a good time for me back in 1953-1956.

  4. I remembered the photos you posted of Ancon Hill immediately. And it’s so interesting to hear of the work you were engaged in – important times for you and for your country.

    When I was in Liberia, there were several transmitters for assorted civilian and US military use in Monrovia. As a matter of fact, one of the old LORAN towers was there. When I started sailing, Loran still was used for navigation, and I learned how to use one of the plotters. I think now the towers all have been dismantled, as GPS and other technology has taken over.

  5. Morning Linda:

    The years I worked for the Panama government were the best years of my life. Unfortunately I couldn’t go on due to political reasons.

    The pictures of Ancon Hill were well received by Lingua Franca’s readers. It’s such a beautiful place with an excellent view of Panama City and the Panama Canal.

    Enjoy the rest of the day. The week is almost over (TGIF).


  6. Dear Omar,

    I’m surprised by the breadth of knowledge you possess about our country, specifically when it comes to the political history of the US military bases we used to accommodate here. I still remember how I felt sorry to see them go, because the Americans have been helpful, and I personally believe they’ve done the Philippines a lot of good. Thank you for taking the time to share what you know about these significant events and matters in your blog.

    I highly enjoy looking at your photos that you have been posting here recently. You look dashing and suave, Omar. It’s good that you are able to look back now and appreciate the best working years of your life. It seems you have served your country well, too.

    Pardon me for this delayed comment. I was offline for days. So nice to click open your blog once again.

    A nice weekend to you.


  7. Morning Marj:

    Thank you for your kind comments. As you know, I like to read just about anything I can lay my paws on. The Philippines have played an important role in the history of Southeast Asia, specially during the Second World War. That is why I am familiar with its history.

    I agree with you that Corazón Aquino should had been more aggressive in keeping the bases open. They were a significant source of income to your country. It is my understanding that a deal has been made, to open some kind of operational bases in the near future. That should be good news for the Philippines.

    “Dashing and suave”, you are making me blush, my dear Marj. Anyway, thanks for those nice remarks.

    Enjoy the upcoming weekend,


    1. “A deal has been made to open some kind of operational bases in the near future.” Wow. That’s good news indeed. I hope the anti-American activists here won’t get in the way.

      Panama becoming the Singapore of Latin America is really something to look forward to as well.

      And dear Omar, you don’t have to blush. You know I can easily tell the kind of men who could break ladies’ hearts. I’m telling you, your dear wife is one lucky lady to have snatched a pretty swell guy like you. 😉

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