Political map of South American nations 3 November 1903 (Panamanian Rebellion): In 1902, the United States purchased the remnants of the failed French attempt to build a canal through Panama (Spooner Act), then part of war-torn Colombia (Thousand Days War). When negotiations with Colombia stalled the following year, the US backed a Panamanian rebellion (Separation of Panama from Colombia) and gained the rights to a canal that way.