"Yeah, 100 years ago," Juan Carlos Varela replied.
U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela at the White House on Monday, and took the opportunity to boast about a certain U.S.-led construction project abroad.
“The Panama Canal is doing quite well; I think we did a good job building it, right?” Trump asked.
Varela immediately reminded Trump that he was talking about a project completed in 1914.
“Yeah, 100 years ago,” he shot back, as Trump continued to talk over him.
“Things are going well in Panama,” added Trump. “The relationship has been very strong. We are developing new things to do and only getting stronger.”
The two leaders then shook hands like two normal human beings, which isn’t always the case when Trump is involved.
As Trump pointed out, the U.S. was responsible for overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal, which successfully connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. (A French team had previously attempted the project in the 1880s.)
Engineers began building in 1904, and laborers from all over the world completed the canal 10 years later, in August 1914. Thousands of people died, with West Indian workers suffering the brunt of the casualties. The U.S. oversaw the canal’s operations until the end of 1999, when it turned over control to Panama.
The canal now handles about 6 percent of world maritime commerce, at a value of more than a half-trillion dollars.