PANAMA CITY —Calm seas turned to bad news for the United States after a decommissioned U.S. aircraft carrier heading to a scrapyard in Texas arrived in Panama one week ahead of schedule — just in time to spook Panamanians on the eve of the XVII Summit of the Americas.
Panama City woke Tuesday morning to the unfamiliar sight of what appeared to be a U.S. Navy warship anchored in their bay. Nearly everyone —from media to government officials — assumed the carrier was there as part of President Barack Obama’s security detail for the summit, which starts on Friday.
Some criticized the U.S. for a bellicose show of force on the eve of a peaceful summit. Rumors even started to circulate that the warship was accompanied by several submarines — one man told me he had seen periscopes sticking out of the bay, as he gestured ambiguously toward the sun gleaming off the water. The local media demanded answers, and Panamanian politicians hemmed and hawed as they tried to explain why the U.S. needed an aircraft carrier to protect Obama.
The U.S. government, however, says the whole incident was due to misinformation. The supercarrier, which was decommissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1993, was simply passing though from a naval shipyard in Bremerton, Washington to a scrapyard in Brownsville, Texas via the straights of Magellan in Chile.
The ship, which has no aircraft aboard, made a stop in Panama Bay on Tuesday to pick up an extra tug and fuel before leaving today to continue south on its long trip around the southern tip of South America, according to a U.S. government spokesperson.
The EX-USS Ranger was supposed to arrive in Panama after the summit, but smooth sailing on the Pacific Ocean it here six days ahead of schedule. So chalk it up to bad timing.
Read original story here: Panamanians wonder: is U.S. aircraft carrier meant to protect Obama at the summit?