REP. GEORGE HANSEN (R-Idaho) may not strike you as a stalking horse for Fidel Castro, but if the forces he leads in the House have their way, Fidel will be given the equivalent of a gold-embossed invitation to make major trouble for the United States in a strategic region close to home. This would happen if Mr. Hansen succeeds in defeating administration-supported legislation to bring the Panama Canal treaties into effect. The legislation faces a final up or down vote on the House floor today.
Mr. Hansen and his like-minded colleagues put forth a lot of fancy financial and legal objections. But the issue is really very simple. The United States acquired the zone and built the canal at a time when Panamanian nationalism could be violated with impunity. That time has long since passed. If the House, in childish refusal to accept the Senate's ratification by legislative subterfuge, there will be a nationalistic reaction in Panama just as night follows day. If Castro's aid is not sought, his name will be invoked. Either way the Hansen brigade will have jeopardized the dominant American interest in maintaing untrammeled access through the canal and in keeping the canal and the zone in friendly hands.
There is something else that ought to ring a bell with those Mr. Hansen who lay claim to great patriotism: American honor, the reliability of the American word. The Senate approved the Panama treaties by due constitutional process last year, and thereby it became a matter of American honor to put those treaties into effect. Not content to position himself opposite the United States' interest on the issue, Mr. Hansen has positioned himself opposite its reputation as a reliable international partner as well. Hard-headed congressmen who do not want to see Fidel Castro making trouble in Central America, and who care for the integrity of the government, will vote the other way.