Panama History: Rule of the Military and a Return to Democracy

By | September 13, 2021

In 1968 the third election of A. Arias as president again led to his overthrow by the National Guard; shortly after taking office, a junta under the leadership of O. Torrijos Herrera (1968–78) took power and in the years that followed tried to implement economic and social reforms based on the Peruvian model. In 1972 Demetrio Basilio Lakas Bahas (* 1925, † 1999) became president, while Torrijos held the actual political power as “Supreme Leader of the Panamanian Revolution”. In 1974 the USA and Panama reached an agreement in principle on a new canal treaty, which was only signed on September 7, 1977 by J. Carter and Torrijos and was ratified on June 17th, 1978 with a slight restriction: For the year 2000 it established the full sovereignty of Panama over the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone. As a country located in Central America according to usprivateschoolsfinder, Panama took over sovereignty in the Canal Zone as early as 1982. The contracts of 1903, 1936 and 1954 were canceled.

After several civil presidents since 1978, Nicolás Ardito Barletta (* 1938) emerged victorious in the presidential elections in 1984. Despite a democratic facade, however, political power continued to be concentrated in the military. After General M. A. Noriega Morena withdrew his support, Eric Arturo Delvalle (* 1937, † 2015) became Barletta’s successor in September 1985. In 1986, the US accused Noriega of drug trafficking links and of betraying Cuba. Delvalle responded to political unrest in 1987 by declaring a state of emergency. As a result, the US stopped its financial aid and tried to Forcing Noriega to resign (including through legal proceedings for drug trafficking, extradition requests, economic sanctions). Delvalles attempt to overthrow Noriega failed because of its support by the majority of the military; therefore Delvalle himself was removed from parliament. The elections in May 1989, which the opposition under Guillermo Endara (* 1936, † 2009) would have won, canceled Noriega and appointed a provisional government. After a failed coup attempt by the Panamanian military against Noriega in October, the US military intervened on December 20, 1989 and the official handover of office took place Endara. On January 3, 1990, Noriega was captured after the intervention claimed many lives. Domestic political crises, the consequences of the destruction caused by the invasion and a difficult economic situation caused Endara to largely fail in his office. The 1994 elections were won by E. Pérez Balladares, a candidate for the military-affiliated PRD, whose program followed the reforms of the 1970s under President Torrijos. With the “Autoridad del Canal de Panama” the supervision of the canal was enshrined in the constitution. The country was also preparing economically for the withdrawal of the Americans and the associated loss of jobs.

As planned, Panama took over full sovereignty over the entire canal zone at the turn of the year 1999/2000. The 1999 presidential election was won by Mireya Moscoso (PA), widow of President Arias, who was ousted in 1968. Their promises to reduce poverty and to rehabilitate the national budget could not be carried out, so that in 2001 there were numerous strikes, demonstrations and violent clashes between the population and the security forces. Unemployment had risen to 14% (also in connection with the US withdrawal from the Canal Zone). The parliament, in which the ruling party did not have a majority, blocked necessary budget, tax and social reforms. The mass protests intensified after several corruption scandals involving leading politicians were exposed in the state apparatus. The 2004 presidential election was won by M. Torrijos, son of O. Torrijos, who ruled the country from 1968 to 1978, for a center-left alliance of PRD and PP (took office on September 1, 2004). In his first year in office, the new president successfully implemented a tax reform thanks to an absolute majority in parliament that supported him. The V. a. The most important domestic political decision for Panama for the future was brought about by the referendum on October 22, 2006 on the expansion of the Panama Canal. 78.3% of those who voted spoke in favor of the project.

In the presidential election on May 3, 2009, the conservative opposition candidate Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal (* 1952), the owner of the country’s largest supermarket chain, won with around 60% of the votes (took office on July 1, 2009). In the parliamentary elections that took place at the same time, Martinelli’s party alliance Alianza por el Cambio, led by the CD, won 37 of the total of 71 seats. In 2010, the former ruler Noriega was extradited by the United States to France, where he was sentenced to another prison term. After breaking the government alliance, President Martinelli dismissed Foreign Minister J. C. Varela Rodríguez on August 30, 2011, the chairman of the PAN, who remained vice-president but subsequently made a name for himself as a critic of government policy. In the same year, Noriegas was transferred to Panama. In January / February 2012 protests by the indigenous population in the Ngöbe-Buglé region, who saw their right to self-determination threatened by planned infrastructure measures (including the award of mining concessions), led to bloody clashes between the police and demonstrators. In March 2012, the government gave in. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held on 4 May 2014. The population elected the previous Vice President Varela as the new head of state with around 39.1% of the votes. José Domingo Arias (* 1963), Candidate of the ruling CD, only got around 31.4% of the vote. Varela took up his post on July 1, 2014. In April 2015, the immunity of the former President Berrocal was lifted on suspicion of corruption, who had previously fled to Guatemala. In the presidential election of 05/05/2019 sits Laurentino Cortizo by the Socialist PRD against its competitors through and was on 01/07/2019 successor Varelas, who was allowed to compete again in accordance with the Constitution does not.

On March 6, 2002, Panama signed the first free trade agreement in its history with El Salvador, followed by numerous other free trade agreements. To combat drug trafficking in cooperation with Costa Rica, Colombia and the USA, the Operational Center for Regional Security of the Central American Integration System SICA was opened in Panama on April 18, 2011. In 2013 Panama signed the EU / Central America Association Agreement. After revelations launched by an international media association (»Panama Papers«) In 2016, the country came under foreign policy pressure through financial transactions associated with letterbox companies. In April 2016, an international commission of experts began to examine the country’s economic and financial system and to develop measures for tax transparency. At the beginning of September 2016, parliament passed a controversial law according to which states and international organizations that alleged tax haven allegations against Panama would face restrictions such as customs and tax measures or restrictions on immigration. Nevertheless, at the end of October 2016, the country signed an agreement with the OECD on mutual tax assistance.

Rule of the Military and a Return to Democracy