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In 1880 Ferdinand de Lesseps began a 20 year effort to construct a waterway across the Isthmus of Panama in fulfillment of a dream that began with Vasco Nuñez de Balboa's first sighting of the Pacific.

After this failed, the United States took up the work in 1903 under a treaty which granted them rights to a strip of territory running 5 miles on each side of the Canal.

 

At the opening of the Canal in 1914, the Panama Canal Company, together with the U.S. Government had integrated the operation of the waterway and adjacent lands into the Canal Zone, a separate State within the Republic of Panama.

 

Wholly U.S. in character, the Canal Zone had its own police force, judicial system customs and immigration services, remained unchanged until the implementation of the Torrijos/Carter treaties on October 1st., 1979.

  

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