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US Failing International Treaty as Chemical Weapons Stockpile Plagues Panama

As US maintains chemical weapons ultimatum over Syria, others point to US stockpiles

Jacob Chamberlain

As the U.S. continues to hold the threat of war over the Syrian government if it doesn't destroy its chemical weapons, a McClatchy article published Wednesday highlights the hypocrisy of that threat—the U.S. has left one of its own chemical weapons stockpiles sitting on an island off the coast of Panama for over 60 years.

Following years of requests to the U.S. from Panama's government to abide by international law and clean up the chemical weapons mess it has left on the island of San Jose, as well as other parts of Panama, the Obama administration told McClatchy that it intends to send a team later this year to investigate the situation. But it remains to be seen if the U.S. will actually sign on to a proposed agreement that would tie them to that promise.

As McClatchy reports:

In May, Panama formally requested – through the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international body based in The Hague, Netherlands, whose inspectors now are overseeing the destruction of Syria’s arsenal – that the United States remove eight chemical bombs found there in a 2002 survey.

The Obama administration declined to say whether the outlines of an agreement have been reached.

“We carried out a concerted effort to have these training sites cleaned up,” recalled Jose Miguel Aleman, who was the foreign minister of Panama from 1999 to 2003—efforts that have thus far failed.

Ramon A. Morales, who served for five years as Panama’s ambassador to the United Nations until 2004, said that buried U.S. weapons remained a serious problem throughout the country, not just San Jose.

“Unofficially, it is known that there have been some 20 deaths by people who have handled this [unexploded ordinance],” Morales said, referring to chemical and other weapons that have been left around the country during different eras of U.S. occupation.

“San Jose Island is a mini problem compared to the rest of the country,” he said. “It’s very hard for a little country like Panama to shake out the information from the world’s most powerful country."

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to violate agreements of the intentional Chemical Weapons Convention treaty in other ways, as it continues to store well over 2,000 tons of chemical weapons within U.S. borders as well, including facilities in Kentucky and Colorado.

Syria is believed to possess approximately 1,000 tons of chemical weapons and has thus far met deadlines set by the U.S. and the U.N. to disclose them.

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