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Tet Offensive Essay, Research Paper
Pamama History
Indians inhabited the isthmus of Panama when the Spanish explorers arrived. Some historians say that there might have been a population of 500,000 Indians from sixty tribes, but other researchers said that the Cuna Indians alone numbered 750,000. Besides the Cuna, the largest group, two other major groups of Indians, the Guaym and the Choc , have been identified. The Guaym , of the highlands near the Costa Rican border, are believed to be related to Indians of the Nahuatlan and Mayan nations of Mexico and Central America. The Choc on the Pacific side appear to be related to the Chibcha of Colombia. The land was owned and farmed among all three Indian groups. In addition to hunting and fishing, the Indians raised corn, cotton, cacao, various root crops and other vegetables, and fruits. They lived in circular thatched huts and slept in hammocks. Villages specialized in producing certain goods, and traders moved among them along the rivers and coastal waters in dugout canoes. The Indians were skillful potters, stonecutters, goldsmiths, and silversmiths. The ornaments they wore, including breastplates and earrings of gold,reinforced the Spanish myth of El Dorado, the city of gold.
Rodrigo de Bastidas, was the first of many Spanish explorers to reach the isthmus. Sailing from Venezuela in 1501 in search of gold, he explored some the coastal area before heading for the West Indies. A year later, Christopher Columbus, on his fourth voyage to the New World, touched several points on the isthmus. One was a horseshoe-shaped harbor that he named Puerto Bello (beautiful port.) Vasco N* ez de Balboa, was a member of Bastidas’s crew. He settled in Hispaniola, which today is the Dominican Republic andHaiti. In 1510 he stowed away on a voyage to Panama to escape his creditors. At that time, about 800 Spaniards lived on the isthmus. Soon the many jungle perils, including malaria and yellow fever, had killed all but 60 of them. Finally, the settlers at Antigua del Dari n, the first city of Spanish rule overthrew the crown’s representative and elected Balboa and Martin Zamudio as co-mayors. Balboa insisted that the settlers plant crops rather than depend on supply ships, and Antigua became a prosperous community. Like other conquistadors, Balboa led raids on Indian settlements, but unlike most, he made friends with the conquered tribes. He took the daughter of a chief as his girlfriend.
In 1513, Balboa, Francisco Pizarro 190 Spaniards set out on an expedition with a pack of dogs, and 1,000 Indian slaves. After twenty-five days of hacking their way through the jungle, the party gazed on the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Balboa, clad in full armor, waded into the water and claimed the sea and all the shores for his God and his king. He returned to Antigua in January 1514 with all 190 soldiers and with cotton cloth, pearls, and 40,000 pesos in gold. Meanwhile, his enemies had denounced him in the Spanish court, and King Ferdinand appointed a new governor for the colony, Pedro Arias de Avila. Later he became known as “Pedrarias theCruel. ” He charged Balboa with treason. In 1517 Balboa was arrested, brought to the court and executed.
In 1519 Pedrarias moved his capital to a fishing village on the Pacific coast. The Indians called the village Panama, meaning “plenty of fish. A trail known as the Camino Real, or royal road, linked Panama and Nombre de Dios, a deserted early settlement , which was was resettled. Along this trail, gold from Peru was
carried by muleback to Spanish galleons waiting on the Atlantic coast. The importance of the isthmus for transporting treasure and the delay and difficulties of the Camino Real caused the Spanish to think about building a canal. This was around 1530. King Philip II concluded that if God had wanted a canal
there He would have built one so he gave up the idea.
Back in Panama hundreds of Spaniards died of disease and starvation. Thousands of Indians were robbed, enslaved, and massacred. Thousands more of the Indians died from European diseases. After the atrocities of Pedrarias, most of the Indians fled to remote areas to avoid the Spaniards. The Indians found one friend among their Spanish oppressors. Bartolom de las Casas, the first priest ordained in the West Indies, was outraged by the persecution of the Indians. He freed his own slaves, returned to Spain, and persuaded the council to adopt stronger measures against enslaving the Indians. He made one suggestion that he later regretted–that Africans, whom the Spaniards considered less than human, be imported to replace the Indians as slaves.
In 1517 King Charles exported 4,000 African slaves to the Antilles. This was the beginning of the slave trade began which flourished for more than 200 years. Panama was a major distribution point for slaves going someplace else. The supply of Indian labor in Pamama was small so and Panama began to keep many of the slaves. A large number of slaves escaped into the jungle. They became known as
Cimarrones, meaning wild or unruly, because they attacked travelers along the Camino Real. An official census of Panama City in 1610 listed 3,500 African slaves.
The king exercised royal control by appointing governors in Panama. The king’s representative was responsible for tracking all gold, pearls, and income from trade and conquest and to give the king his share. Courts were established. The first in Santo Domingo, had jurisdiction over the whole area of conquest. By a decree of 1538, all Spanish territory from Nicaragua to Cape Horn was to be administered
from an court in Panama. This only until 1543 because of the impossibility of exercising jurisdiction over such a big area. A new Panamanian court, with jurisdiction over a smaller area was established in 1563. After 1567 Panama was attached to Peru but retained its own rule. Beginning early in the sixteenth century, Nombre de Dios in Panama, Vera Cruz in Mexico, and Cartagena in Colombia
were the only three ports in Spanish America allowed by the King to trade with Spain. By 1560s, each year two fleets sailed from Spain and one to Mexico, These fleets would meet at Havana and return together to C diz, Spain. Shipments of good bullion and goods were delivered to Panama on the Pacific side for transport over the isthmus and return to Spain. When the Inca gold was exhausted, allot of silver mined in Peru replaced gold. Eventually sugar, cotton, wine, were transported.
Except for traffic in African slaves, foreign trade was forbidden unless the goods passed through Spain. Africans were brought to the colonies on contract by Portuguese, English, Dutch, and French slavers. Sometimes warfare resulted in the
Caribbean and later in the Pacific. The first serious interference with trade came from the English.
From 1572 to 1597, Francis Drake was associated with most of the assaults on Panama. Drake’s attacks showed how the area was not defended good. Despite raids on shipments and ports, precious metal transport increased between 1550
and 1600. Panama’s prosperity was at its peak during the first part of the seventeenth century. Panama City also flourished on the profits of trade. Panama City was considered, after Mexico City and Lima, the most beautiful and rich settlement in the West Indies.
A canal project was thoght about again in the seventeenth century by Philip III of Spain. The Council of the Indies argued that a canal would be attacked by other European nations and Spanish sea power would decline.
During the early seventeenth century, England, France, and the Netherlands, at war with Spain, began seizing colonies in the Caribbean. Bucaneers and pirates looted ships. The volume of precious metal arriving in Spain fell from its peak in 1600. Depletion of Peruvian mines, an increase in smuggling, and the buccaneers were
causes of the decline.
Henry Morgan, a buccaneer defeated the garrison of 2,600 and looted Panama City. The officials and citizens fled, after having loaded their ships with the most important church and government funds and treasure. Panama City was destroyed by fire, probably from blown up powder stores, although the looters were blamed. After 4 weeks, Morgan left with 175 mule loads of loot and 600 prisoners. The buccaneer scourge rapidly declined after 1688 mainly because of changing European alliances. By this time Spain was bankrupt; its population had fallen; and it suffered internal government mismanagement and corruption.
Influenced by buccaneer reports about how easy the isthmus could be crossed William Paterson, founder and ex-governor of the Bank of England, organized a Scottish company to establish a colony in the area. Paterson landed on the Caribbean coast late in 1698 with about 1,200 persons. The colonists were not prepared for life in the tropics with its heat and diseases. Their idea of trade goods which was clothing, wigs, and English Bibles was no interest to the Indians. These colonists gave up after six months, and left in April 1700, having lost many lives, mostly from malnutrition and disease.
In Spain Bourbon kings came to power in 1700.; only five fleets went to Latin America between 1715 and 1736. Panama’s temporary loss of its independent rule, from 1718 to 1722, and the country’s attachment to Peru were probably engineered by powerful Peruvian merchants. They resented Panamanian officials and their ineffectiveness in stopping the pirates. Panama’s weakness was further shown by its inability to protect itself against an invasion by the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua. Another Indian uprising in the valley caused the whites to abandon the area.
Panama’s shrinking control of the transit trade between Latin America and Spain came before the mid- eighteenth century. As a provision of the Treaty of Utrecht at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, Britain was given the right to supply African slaves to the Spanish colonies (4,800 a year for 30 years) and also to send 1 ship a year to Panama. The slave trade provision satisfied both countries, but the trade in goods did not. Smuggling by British ships continued, and a contraband trade based in Jamaica nearly wiped out the legal trade. By 1739 the importance of the isthmus to Spain had seriously declined; Spain again took away Panama’s own rule by making the region part of the rule of New Granada.
In 1739 war broke out between Britain and Spain. Panama’s economic decline was serious. Transit trade was the reason why Panama was rich and there was no reason to find another economic base. After losing rule in 1751, Panama was hardly even self-supporting in food and producing little for export. Social class in the colony was rigid. The most prestigious and rewarding positions were reserved for the
those actually born in Spain. Those of Spanish ancestry but born in the colonies, held next positions in government and trade. Those with Spanish fathers and Indian mothers, did farming and trading. African and Indian slaves were considered underclass. The church held a special place in society. Priests were important. The relationship between church and government in the colony was closer than in Spain. Both the Catholic Church and the monks gained great wealth through titles and land.
Independence from Spain
Panama was not part of the early efforts of the Spanish colonies to separate from Spain. General Francisco Miranda of Venezuela, who,had been attracting support for revolutionary activities as early as 1797, offered a canal proposal to Britain in return for aid. Thomas Jeffersonin America also showed interest in a canal, but the policies of the new United States prevented serious consideration. Panama’s first act of separation from Spain came without violence. Sim n Bol var’s victory on August 7, 1819, liberated New Granada. The Spanish ruler fled Colombia for Panama, where he ruled harshly until his death in 1821. A native Panamanian, Colonel Edwin F brega became acting governor. The city of Los Santos
proclaimed freedom from Spain on November 10, 1821. A meeting in Panama City on November 28 took place. This is the day which is celebrated as the official date of independence. Discussion followed if Panama should remain part of Colombia or unite with Peru. Panama became part of Colombia. With the addition of Ecuador to the liberated area, the whole country became known as Gran Colombia. Panama sent a force of 700 men to join Bol var in Peru, where the war of liberation continued.
The constitution that Bol var had drafted for Bolivia was put forward by him to be adopted in Gran Colombia. The country was divided over the proposal that a president would serve for life. Panama joined other regions in petitioning Bol var to assume l powers until a convention could meet. Panama announced its union with Gran Colombia as an autonomous area with special trading privileges until the convention was held.
In 1826 chose Panama as the site for a congress of the recently liberated Spanish colonies. Bol var made a serious attempt to unite the Spanish American republics.
His purpose was to secure the independence of the former colonies from renewed attacks by Spain and its allies. Bol var sought Britain’s protection. He did not invite the U.S. Bol var agreed though when the governments of Colombia, Mexico, and
Central America invited the United States to send observers. President John Quincy Adams told his delegates to stay neutral.
The Congress of Panama, in 1826, was attended by four American
Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Peru. The “Treaty of Union, League, and Perpetual Confederation” included a provision that if a member state changed its form of government, it would be excluded from the confederation and could be readmitted only with the unanimous consent of all other members. The treaty was never became effective. Three failed attempts to separate the isthmus from Colombia occurred between 1830 and 1840.
The California Gold Rush and the Railroad
Discovery of gold in 1848 increased traffic in the isthmusgreatly. In 1847 a group of New York rich men organized the Panama Railroad Company. A railroad contract was obtained in 1850. The first through train from the Atlantic to the Pacific side ran on the completed track on January 28, 1855. The gold rush traffic, even before the completion of the railroad, restored Panama’s prosperity. Between 1848 and 1869, about 375,000 persons crossed the isthmus from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and 225,000 crossed in the opposite direction. Prices for food and services were greatly raised, producing huge profits from meals and housing. The railroad also created a new city and port. The town that sprang up to accommodate the railroad
soon becamethe second largest in the country. United States citizens named it Aspinwall, after one of the founders of the Panama Railroad Company, but the Panamanians named it Col n, in honor of Columbus. The name Col n won.
Throughout the nineteenth century, governments and private investors in the United States, Britain, and France sometimes showed interest in building a canal across the Western Hemisphere. Several sites were considered, but from
the start the ones in Nicaragua and Panama received the most serious attention. President Andrew Jackson sent Charles A. Biddle in the 1830s to investigate both routes. Colombia continued to express interest in negotiating with the United States on building a canal. A treaty was signed in 1846 between the two countries. The treaty removed the existing restrictive tariffs and gave the United States and
its citizens the right of free transit over any road or canal that might be constructed in the isthmus. In addition, the United States guaranteed the neutrality of the isthmus and Colombia’s sovereignty over it. Called the Bidlack-Mallarino Treaty of 1846, it was actually ratified and became effective in 1848. Because the canal interests of Britain and the United States had continued to clash, particularly in Nicaragua, Britain and the United States sought to ease tensions by entering into the ClaytonBulwer Treaty of 1850. The governments agreed specifically that neither would acquire rights to or construct a Nicaraguan canal without the participation of the other. This was extended to any canal or railroad across Central America, to include Mexico and Panama. In effect, since neither government was then willing or able to begin a canal, the treaty was an instrument of neutrality.
Colombia’s attempt to attract canal interest finally brought French attention to bear on Panama. A company was formed in 1879 to construct a sea-level
canal generally along the railroad route. Ferdinand de Lesseps, headed the company.. The company also purchased most of the stock of the Panama Railroad Company, which, however, continued to be managed by Americans.
Earth moving did not start until 1881. As work progressed, engineers judged that a sea-level canal was impracticable. De Lesseps could not be convinced until work had gone on for six years. Actual labor on a lock canal did not start until late in 1888, by which time the company was in serious financial difficulty. At the peak of its operations the company employed about 10,000 workers. In January 1889 all work stopped ,when the company was bankrupt. Despite this, an estimated two-fifths of the excavation necessary for the eventual canal hadalready been completed. Many headquarters and hospital buildings were finished. Some of the machinery left on the site was still usable, and the railroad had been maintained Most of the Antillean blacks unemployed by the French
eventually worked on the United States canal.
During the last half of the nineteenth century, violent clashes left the isthmus’ affairs in constant turmoil. This period saw many riots and rebellions. Economic
problems and intensified grievances against the central government of Colombia were in force. Between 1863 and 1886, the isthmus had twenty-six presidents. Coups rebellions, and violence were almost continuous . Early in 1885, a revolt headed by a radical Liberal general and centered in Panama City . Col n was virtually destroyed. United States forces landed at the request of the Colombian government but were too late to save the city. United States naval forces occupied both Col n and Panama City. The United States consul general reported that most of the Panamanians wanted independence from Colombia and would revolt if they could get arms and be sure of freedom from United States intervention.
Panama was drawn into Colombia’s War of a Thousand Days. By early 1902 the rebels had been defeated in most of Colombia proper. At that point, the Colombian
government asked the United States to intercede and bring about an armistice in Panama, which was arranged aboard the U.S.S. Wisconsin in the Bay of Panama in 1902. Throughout the period of turmoil, the United States had retained its interest in building a canal through either Nicaragua or Panama. An obstacle to this goal was overcome in December 1901 when the United States and Britain signed the
Hay-Pauncefote Treaty. This treaty nullified the the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850 and the Brisish allowed a canal constructed by the United States.
Naval operations during the Spanish-American War convinced President Theodore Roosevelt that the United States needed to control a canal somewhere in the Western Hemisphere. The Spooner Bill of 1902, provided for a canal through the isthmus of Panama. In The Hay-Herr n Treaty of 1903, Colombia gave consent to the U. S. and 100-year lease on an area 10 kilometers wide. This treaty, however, was not ratified and the United States, determined to construct a canal across the isthmus, intensively encouraged the Panamanian separatist movement. By 1903, a Panamamian revolution was taking place. The native Panamanian leaders conspired to take advantage of United States interest in a new regime on the
isthmus. In October and November 1903, the revolution with the protection of United States naval forces, carried out a successful uprising against the Colombian government. President Roosevelt recognized the new Panamanian government on November 6, 1903. Bunau Varilla who led the uprising was considered the new leader. While residing in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, he wrote the Panamanian declaration of independence and constitution and designed the Panamanian flag. Approval by the United States Senate came on February 23, 1904.
The rights granted to the United States included the use, occupation, and control of a sixteenkilometer -wide strip of territory and extensions of three nautical
miles into the sea for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of an isthmus canal. The United States was entitled to acquire additional areas of land or water necessary for canal operations and held the option of exercising eminent domain in Panama City. Within this territory Washington gained all the rights, power, and authority . The Republic of Panama became a protectorate. The United States guaranteed the independence of Panama and received in return the right to intervene in Panama’s domestic affairs. The United States paid $10 million and also purchased the rights and properties of the French canal company for $40 million. Major disagreements arose concerning the rights granted to the United States by the treaty of 1903 and the Panamanian constitution of 1904. The United States government thought these rights meant that the United States could rule over all matters in the Canal Zone. Panama, thought that the original agreement related only to the construction, operation, and defense of the canal.
In 1904 Amador became Panama’s first president. The constitution was modeled mostly, after that of the United States. When the United States canal builders arrived in 1904 to begin their momentous task, Panama City and Col n were both
small, squalid towns. A single railroad stretched between the towns. The new builders were haunted by the ghosts of de Lesseps’s failure and of the workers, some 25,000 of
whom had died on the project. These new builders were able, however, to learn from de Lesseps’s mistakes and to build
on the foundations of the previous engineering. The most formidable task that the North Americans faced was that of
ridding the area of deadly mosquitoes.
After a couple of false starts under a civilian commission, President Roosevelt turned the project over to the United States
Army Corps of Engineers, guided by Colonel George Washington Goethals. Colonel William Crawford Gorgas was
placed in charge of sanitation. In addition to the major killers–malaria and yellow fever–smallpox, typhoid, dysentery, and
intestinal parasites threatened the newcomers.
Because the mosquito carrying yellow fever was found in urban areas, Gorgas concentrated his main efforts on the terminal
cities. “Gorgas gangs” dug ditches to drain standing water and sprayed puddles with a film of oil. They screened and
fumigated buildings, even invading churches to clean out the fonts of holy water. They installed a pure water supply and a
modern system of sewage disposal. Goethals reportedly told Gorgas that every mosquito killed was costing the United
States US$10. “I know, Colonel,” Gorgas reportedly replied, “but what if one of those ten-dollar mosquitoes were to bite
Gorgas’s work is credited with saving at least 71,000 lives and some 40 million days of sickness. The cleaner, safer
conditions enabled the canal diggers to attract a labor force. By 1913 approximately 65,000 men were on the payroll. Most
were West Indians, although some 12,000 workers were recruited from southern Europe. Five thousand United States
citizens filled the administrative, professional, and supervisory jobs. To provide these men with the comforts and amenities
to which they were accustomed, a paternalistic community was organized in the Canal Zone.
The most challenging tasks involved in the actual digging of the canal were cutting through the mountain ridge at Culebra;
building a huge dam at Gat*n to trap the R o Chagres and form an artificial lake; and building three double sets of
locks–Gatun Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks, and Miraflores Locks–to raise the ships to the lake, almost twenty-six meters
above sea level, and then lower them. On August 15, 1914, the first ship made a complete passage through the canal.
By the time the canal project was completed, its economic impact had created a new middle class. In addition, new forms of
discrimination occurred. Panamanian society had become segregated not only by class but by race and national origin as
well (see Ethnic Groups and Social Organization , ch. 2). Furthermore, United States commercial competition and political
intervention had already begun to generate resentment among Panamanians.
Data as of December 1987
United States Intervention and Strained Relations
In the very first year of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, dissension had already arisen over the sovereignty issue. Acting on
an understanding of its rights, the United States had applied special regulations to maritime traffic at the ports of entry to the
canal and had established its own customs, tariffs, and postal services in the zone. These measures were opposed by the
Panamanian government.
Mounting friction finally led Roosevelt to dispatch Secretary of War William Howard Taft to Panama in November 1904.
His visit resulted in a compromise agreement, whereby the United States retained control of the ports of Anc n and
Crist bal, but their facilities might be used by any ships entering Panama City and Col n. The agreement also involved a
reciprocal reduction of tariffs and the free passage of persons and goods from the Canal Zone into the republic.
Compromises were reached in other areas, and both sides emerged with most of their grievances blunted if not wholly
Before the first year of independence had passed, the intervention issue also complicated relations. Threats to constitutional
government in the republic by a Panamanian military leader, General Est ban Huertas, had resulted, at the suggestion of the
United States diplomatic mission, in disbanding the Panamanian army in 1904. The army was replaced by the National
Police, whose mission was to carry out ordinary police work. By 1920 the United States had intervened four times in the
civil life of the republic. These interventions involved little military conflict and were, with one exception, at the request of
one Panamanian faction or another.
The internal dynamics of Panamanian politics encouraged appeals to the United States by any currently disgruntled faction
for intervention to secure its allegedly infringed rights. United States diplomatic personnel in Panama also served as
advisers to Panamanian officials, a policy resented by nationalists. In 1921 the issue of intervention was formally raised by
the republic’s government. When asked for a definitive, written interpretation of the pertinent treaty clauses, Secretary of
State Charles Evans Hughes pointed to inherent difficulties and explained that the main objectives of the United States were
to act against any threat to the Canal Zone or the lives and holdings of non-Panamanians in the two major cities.
Actual intervention took several forms. United States officials supervised elections at the request of incumbent
governments. To protect lives of United States citizens and property in Chiriqu Province, an occupation force was
stationed there for two years over the protests of Panamanians who contended that the right of occupation could apply only
to the two major cities. United States involvement in the 1925 rent riots in Panama City was also widely resented. After
violent disturbances during October, and at the request of the Panamanian government, 600 troops with fixed bayonets
dispersed mobs threatening to seize the city.
At the end of the 1920s, traditional United States policy toward intervention was revised. In 1928 Secretary of State Frank
B. Kellogg reiterated his government’s refusal to countenance illegal changes of government. In the same year, however,
Washington declined to intervene during the national elections that placed Florencio H. Arosemena in office. The
Arosemena government was noted for its corruption. But when a coup d’ tat was undertaken to unseat Arosemena, the
United States once again declined to intervene. Though no official pronouncement of a shift in policy had been made, the
1931 coup d’ tat–the first successful one in the republic’s history–marked a watershed in the history of United States
Meanwhile, popular sentiment on both sides calling for revisions to the treaty had resulted in the Kellogg-Alfaro Treaty of
1925. The United States in this instrument agreed to restrictions on private commercial operations in the Canal Zone and
also agreed to a tightening of the regulations pertaining to the official commissaries. At the same time, however, the United
States gained several concessions involving security. Panama agreed to automatic participation in any war involving the
United States and to United States supervision and control of military operations within the republic. These and other
clauses aroused strong opposition and, amid considerable tumult, the National Assembly on January 26, 1927, refused to
consider the draft treaty.
The abortive Kellogg-Alfaro Treaty involved the two countries in a critical incident with the League of Nations. During the
fall of 1927, the League Assembly insisted that Panama could not legally participate in the proposed arrangement with the
United States. The assembly argued that an automatic declaration of war would violate Panama’s obligations under the
League Covenant to wait three months for an arbitral decision on any dispute before resorting to war. The discussion was
largely academic inasmuch as the treaty had already been effectively rejected, but Panama proposed that the dispute over
sovereignty in the Canal Zone be submitted to international arbitration. The United States denied that any issue needed
Data as of December 1987
A New Accommodation
In the late 1920s, United States policymakers noted that nationalist aspirations in Latin America were not producing
desired results. United States occupation of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua had not spawned exemplary
political systems, nor had widespread intervention resulted in a receptive attitude toward United States trade and
investments. As the subversive activities of Latin American Nazi and Fascist sympathizers gained momentum in the
1930s, the United States became concerned about the need for hemispheric solidarity.
The gradual reversal of United States policy was heralded in 1928 when the Clark Memorandum was issued, formally
disavowing the Roosevelt Corollary (see Glossary) to the Monroe Doctrine. In his inaugural address in 1933, President
Franklin D. Roosevelt enunciated the Good Neighbor Policy. That same year, at the Seventh Inter-American Conference
in Montevideo, the United States expressed a qualified acceptance of the principle of nonintervention; in 1936 the United
States approved this principle without reservation.
In the 1930s, Panama, like most countries of the Western world, was suffering economic depression. Until that time,
Panamanian politics had remained a competition among individuals and families within a gentleman’s club–specifically,
the Union Club of Panama City. The first exception to this succession was Harmodio Arias Madrid (unrelated to the
aristocratic family of the same name) who was elected to the presidency in 1932. A mestizo from a poor family in the
provinces, he had attended the London School of Economics and had gained prominence through writing a book that
attacked the Monroe Doctrine.
Harmodio and his brother Arnulfo, a Harvard Medical School graduate, entered the political arena through a movement
known as Community Action (Acci n Communal). Its following was primarily mestizo middle class, and its mood was
antioligarchy and anti- Yankee (see Glossary). Harmodio Arias was the first Panamanian president to institute relief
efforts for the isolated and impoverished countryside. He later established the University of Panama, which became the
focal point for the political articulation of middle-class interests and nationalistic zeal.
Thus, a certain asymmetry developed in the trends underway in the 1930s that worked in Panama’s favor. While the
United States was assuming a more conciliatory stance, Panamanians were losing patience, and a political base for
virulent nationalism was emerging.
A dispute arose in 1932 over Panamanian opposition to the sale of 3.2-percent beer in the Canal Zone competing with
Panamanian beers. Tension rose when the governor of the zone insisted on formally replying to the protests, despite the
Panamanian government’s well-known view that proper diplomatic relations should involve only the United States
ambassador. In 1933 when unemployment in Panama reached a dangerous level and friction over the zone commissaries
rekindled, President Harmodio Arias went to Washington.
The result was agreement on a number of issues. The United States pledged sympathetic consideration of future
arbitration requests involving economic issues that did not affect the vital aspects of canal operation. Special efforts were
to be made to protect Panamanian business interests from the smuggling of cheaply purchased commissary goods out of
the zone. Washington also promised to seek appropriations from Congress to sponsor the repatriation of the numerous
immigrant canal workers, who were aggravating the unemployment situation. Most important, however, was President
Roosevelt’s acceptance, in a joint statement with Harmodio Arias, that United States rights in the zone applied only for
the purposes of “maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection” of the canal. The resolution of this long-standing
issue, along with a clear recognition of Panama as a sovereign nation, was a significant move in the direction of the
Panamanian interpretation of the proper United States position in the isthmus.
This accord, though welcomed in Panama, came too early to deal with a major problem concerning the US$250,000
annuity. The devaluation of the United States dollar in 1934 reduced its gold content to 59.6 percent of its former value.
This meant that the US$250,000 payment was nearly cut in half in the new devalued dollars. As a result, the
Panamanian government refused to accept the annuity paid in the new dollars.
Roosevelt’s visit to the republic in the summer of 1934 prepared the way for opening negotiations on this and other
matters. A Panamanian mission arrived in Washington in November, and discussions on a replacement for the
Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty continued through 1935. On March 2, 1936, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Assistant
Secretary of State Sumner Welles joined the Panamanian negotiators in signing a new treaty–the Hull-Alfaro
Treaty–and three related conventions. The conventions regulated radio communications and provided for the United
States to construct a new trans-isthmian highway connecting Panama City and Col n.
The treaty provided a new context for relations between the two countries. It ended the protectorate by abrogating the
1903 treaty guarantee of the republic’s independence and the concomitant right of intervention. Thereafter, the United
States would substitute negotiation and purchase of land outside the zone for its former rights of expropriation. The
dispute over the annuity was resolved by agreeing to fix it at 430,000 balboas (the balboa being equivalent to the
devalued dollar) which increased the gold value of the original annuity by US$7,500. This was to be paid retroactively
to 1934 when the republic had begun refusing the payments.
Various business and commercial provisions dealt with longstanding Panamanian complaints. Private commercial
operations unconnected with canal operations were forbidden in the zone. This policy and the closing of the zone to
foreign commerce were to provide Panamanian merchants with relief from competition. Free entry into the zone was
provided for Panamanian goods, and the republic’s customhouses were to be established at entrances to the zone to
regulate the entry of goods finally destined for Panama.
The Hull-Alfaro revisions, though hailed by both governments, radically altered the special rights of the United States in
the isthmus, and the United States Senate was reluctant to accept the alterations. Article X of the new treaty provided that
in the event of any threat to the security of either nation, joint measures could be taken after consultation between the
two. Only after an exchange of interpretative diplomatic notes had permitted Senator Key Pittman, chairman of the
Foreign Relations Committee, to advise his colleagues that Panama was willing under this provision to permit the United
States to act unilaterally, did the Senate give its consent on July 25, 1939.
Data as of December 1987
The War Years
After ratifying the Hull-Alfaro Treaty in 1939, Panama and the United States began preparation for and collaboration in
the coming war effort. Cooperation in this area proceeded smoothly for more than a year, with the republic participating
in the series of conferences, declarations, and protocols that solidified the support of the hemisphere behind
Washington’s efforts to meet the threat of Axis aggression. This cooperation halted with the inauguration of Arnulfo
Arnulfo Arias has been elected to the presidency at least three times since 1940 (perhaps four or five if, as many believe,
the vote counts of 1964 and 1984 were fraudulent), but he has never been allowed to serve a full term. He was first
elected when he headed a mass movement known as Paname ismo. Its essence was nationalism, which in Panama’s
situation meant opposition to United States hegemony. Arias aspired to rid the country of non-Hispanics, which meant
not only North Americans, but also West Indians, Chinese, Hindus, and Jews. He also seemed susceptible to the
influence of Nazi and Fascist agents on the eve of the United States declaration of war against the Axis.
North Americans were by no means the only ones in Panama who were anxious to be rid of Arias. Even his brother,
Harmodio, urged the United States embassy to move against the leader. United States officials made no attempt to
conceal their relief when the National Police, in October 1941, took advantage of Arias’s temporary absence from the
country to depose him.
Arnulfo Arias had promulgated a new constitution in 1941, which was designed to extend his term of office. In 1945 a
clash between Arias’s successor, Ricardo Adolfo de la Guardia, and the National Assembly, led to the calling of a
constituent assembly that elected a new president, Enrique A. Jim nez, and drew up a new constitution. The constitution
of 1946 erased the innovations introduced by Arias and restored traditional concepts and structures of government.
In preparation for war, the United States had requested 999- year leases on more than 100 bases and sites. Arias balked,
but ultimately approved a lease on one site after the United States threatened to occupy the land it wanted. De la Guardia
proved more accommodating; he agreed to lease the United States 134 sites in the republic but not for 999 years. He
would extend the leases only for the duration of the war plus one year beyond the signing of the peace treaty.
The United States transferred Panama City’s water and sewer systems to the city administration and granted new
economic assistance, but it refused to deport the West Indians and other non-Hispanics or to pay high rents for the sites.
Among the major facilities granted to the United States under the agreement of 1942 were the airfield at R o Hato, the
naval base on Isla Taboga, and several radar stations.
The end of the war brought another misunderstanding between the two countries. Although the peace treaty had not
entered into effect, Panama demanded that the bases be relinquished, resting its claim on a subsidiary provision of the
agreement permitting renegotiation after the cessation of hostilities. Overriding the desire of the United States War
Department to hold most of the bases for an indefinite period, the Department of State took cognizance of growing
nationalist dissatisfaction and in December 1946 sent Ambassador Frank T. Hines to propose a twenty-year extension of
the leases on thirteen facilities. President Jim nez authorized a draft treaty over the opposition of the foreign minister and
exacerbated latent resentment. When the National Assembly met in 1947 to consider ratification, a mob of 10,000
Panamanians armed with stones, machetes, and guns expressed opposition. Under these circumstances the deputies
voted unanimously to reject the treaty. By 1948 the United States had evacuated all occupied bases and sites outside the
Canal Zone.
The upheaval of 1947 was instigated in large measure by university students. Their clash with the National Police on
that occasion, in which both students and policemen were killed, marked the beginning of a period of intense animosity
between the two groups. The incident was also the first in which United States intentions were thwarted by a massive
expression of Panamanian rage.
Data as of December 1987
The National Guard in Ascendance
A temporary shift in power from the civilian aristocracy to the National Police occurred immediately after World War II.
Between 1948 and 1952, National Police Commander Jos Antonio Rem n installed and removed presidents with
unencumbered ease. Among his behind-the-scenes manipulations were the denial to Arnulfo Arias of the presidency he
apparently had won in 1948, the installation of Arias in the presidency in 1949, and the engineering of Arias’s removal
from office in 1951. Meanwhile, Rem n increased salaries and fringe benefits for his forces and modernized training
methods and equipment; in effect, he transformed the National Police from a police into a paramilitary force. In the
spheres of security and public order, he achieved his long-sought goal by transforming the National Police into the
National Guard in 1953 and introduced greater militarization into the country’s only armed force. The missions and
functions were little changed by the new title, but for Rem n, this change was a step toward a national army (see
Historical Background , ch. 5).
From several preexisting parties and factions, Rem n also organized the National Patriotic Coalition (Coalici n
Patri tico Nacional–CPN). He ran successfully as its candidate for the presidency in 1952. Rem n followed national
tradition by enriching himself through political office. He broke with tradition, however, by promoting social reform
and economic development. His agricultural and industrial programs temporarily reduced the country’s overwhelming
economic dependence on the canal and the zone.
Rem n’s reformist regime was short-lived, however. In 1955 he was machine-gunned to death at the racetrack outside
Panama City. The first vice president, Jos Ram n Guizado, was impeached for the crime and jailed, but he was never
tried, and the motivation for his alleged act remained unclear. Some investigators believed that the impeachment of
Guizado was a smokescreen to distract attention from others implicated in the assassination, including United States
organized crime figure “Lucky” Luciano, dissident police officers, and both Arias families. The second vice president,
Ricardo Arias (of the aristocratic Arias family), served out the remainder of the presidential term and dismantled many of
Rem n’s reforms.
Rem n did not live to see the culmination of the major treaty revision he initiated. In 1953 Rem n had visited
Washington to discuss basic revisions of the 1936 treaty. Among other things, Panamanian officials wanted a larger
share of the canal tolls, and merchants continued to be unhappy with the competition from the nonprofit commissaries in
the Canal Zone. Rem n also demanded that the discriminatory wage differential in the zone, which favored United
States citizens over Panamanians, be abolished.
After lengthy negotiations a Treaty of Mutual Understanding and Cooperation was signed on January 23, 1955. Under
its provisions commercial activities not essential to the operation of the canal were to be cut back. The annuity was
enlarged to US$1,930,000. The principle of “one basic wage scale for all . . . employees . . . in the Canal Zone” was
accepted and implemented. Panama’s request for the replacement of the “perpetuity” clause by a ninety-nine-year
renewable lease was rejected, however, as was the proposal that its citizens accused of violations in the zone be tried by
joint United States-Panamanian tribunals.
Panama’s contribution to the 1955 treaty was its consent to the United States occupation of the bases outside of the
Canal Zone that it had withheld a few years earlier. Approximately 8,000 hectares of the republic’s territory were leased
rent-free for 15 years for United States military maneuvers. The R o Hato base, a particularly important installation in
defense planning, was thus regained for the United States Air Force. Because the revisions had the strong support of
President Ricardo Arias, the National Assembly approved them with little hesitation.
Data as of December 1987
The Politics of Frustrated Nationalism
The CPN placed another candidate, Ernesto de la Guardia, in the presidency in 1956. The Rem n government had
required parties to enroll 45,000 members to receive official recognition. This membership requirement, subsequently
relaxed to 5,000, had excluded all opposition parties from the 1956 elections except the National Liberal Party (Partido
Liberal Nacional–PLN) which traced its lineage to the original Liberal Party.
De la Guardia was a conservative businessman and a member of the oligarchy. By Panamanian standards, he was by no
means anti- Yankee (see Glossary), but his administration presided over a new low in United States-Panamanian
relations. The Egyptian nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956 raised new hopes in the republic, because the two
canals were frequently compared in the world press. Despite Panama’s large maritime fleet (the sixth greatest in the
world), Britain and the United States did not invite Panama to a special conference of the major world maritime powers
in London to discuss Suez. Expressing resentment, Panama joined the communist and neutral nations in a rival Suez
proposal. United States secretary of state John Foster Dulles’s unqualified statement on the Suez issue on September 28,
1956–that the United States did not fear similar nationalization of the Panama Canal because the United States possessed
“rights of sovereignty” there– worsened matters.
Panamanian public opinion was further inflamed by a United States Department of the Army statement in the summer of
1956 that implied that the 1955 treaty had not in fact envisaged a total equalization of wage rates. The United States
attempted to clarify the issue by explaining that the only exception to the “equal pay for equal labor” principle would be a
25-percent differential that would apply to all citizens brought from the continental United States.
Tension mounted in the ensuing years. In May 1958 students demonstrating against the United States clashed with the
National Guard. The violence of these riots, in which nine died, was a forecast of the far more serious difficulties that
followed a year later. In November 1959 anti-United States demonstrations occurred during the two Panamanian
independence holidays. Aroused by the media, particularly by articles in newspapers owned by Harmodio Arias,
Panamanians began to threaten a “peaceful invasion” of the Canal Zone, to raise the flag of the republic there as tangible
evidence of Panama’s sovereignty. Fearful that Panamanian mobs might actually force entry into the Canal Zone, the
United States called out its troops. Several hundred Panamanians crossed barbedwire restraints and clashed with Canal
Zone police and troops. A second wave of Panamanian citizens was repulsed by the National Guard, supported by
United States troops.
Extensive and violent disorder followed. A mob smashed the windows of the United States Information Agency library.
The United States flag was torn from the ambassador’s residence and trampled. Aware that public hostility was getting
out of hand, political leaders attempted to regain control over their followers but were unsuccessful. Relations between
the two governments were severely strained. United States authorities erected a fence on the border of the Canal Zone,
and United States citizens residing in the Canal Zone observed a voluntary boycott of Panamanian merchants, who
traditionally depended heavily on these patrons.
On March 1, 1960–Constitution Day–student and labor groups threatened another march into the Canal Zone. The
widespread disorders of the previous fall had had a sobering effect on the political elite, who seriously feared that new
rioting might be transformed into a revolutionary movement against the social system itself. Both major coalitions
contesting the coming elections sought to avoid further difficulties, and influential merchants, who had been hard hit by
the November 1959 riots, were apprehensive. Reports that the United States was willing to recommend flying the
republic’s flag in a special site in the Canal Zone served to ease tensions. Thus, serious disorders were averted.
De la Guardia’s administration had been overwhelmed by the rioting and other problems, and the CPN, lacking effective
opposition in the National Assembly, began to disintegrate. Most dissenting factions joined the PLN in the National
Opposition Union, which in 1960 succeeded in electing its candidate, Roberto Chiari, to the presidency. De la Guardia
became the first postwar president to finish a full four-year term in office, and Chiari had the distinction of being the first
opposition candidate ever elected to the presidency.
Chiari attempted to convince his fellow oligarchs that change was inevitable. He cautioned that if they refused to accept
moderate reform, they would be vulnerable to sweeping change imposed by uncontrollable radical forces. The
tradition-oriented deputies who constituted a majority in the National Assembly did not heed his warning. His proposed
reform program was simply ignored. In foreign affairs, Chiari’s message to the Assembly on October 1, 1961, called
for a new revision of the Canal Zone arrangement. When Chiari visited Washington on June 12 to 13, 1962, he and
President John F. Kennedy agreed to appoint high-level representatives to discuss controversies between their countries
regarding the Canal Zone. The results of the discussions were disclosed in a joint communique issued on July 23, 1963.
Agreement had been reached on the creation of the Bi-National Labor Advisory Committee to consider disputes arising
between Panamanian employees and zone authorities. The United States had agreed to withhold taxes from its
Panamanian employees to be remitted to the Panamanian government. Pending congressional approval, the United
States agreed to extend to Panamanian employees the health and life insurance benefits available to United States citizens
in the zone.
Several other controversial matters, however, remained unresolved. The United States agreed to increase the wages of
Panamanian employees in the zone, but not as much as the Panamanian government requested. No agreement was
reached in response to Panamanian requests for jurisdiction over a corridor through the zone linking the two halves of
the country.
Meanwhile, the United States had initiated a new aid program for all of Latin America–the Alliance for Progress. Under
this approach to hemisphere relations, President Kennedy envisioned a long-range program to raise living standards and
advance social and economic development. No regular United States government development loans or grants had been
available to Panama through the late 1950s. The Alliance for Progress, therefore, was the first major effort of the United
States to improve basic living conditions. Panama was to share in the initial, large-scale loans to support self-help
housing. Nevertheless, pressure for major revisions of the treaties and resentment of United States recalcitrance
continued to move.
Data as of December 1987
The Oligarchy under Fire
In the mid-1960s, the oligarchy was still tenuously in charge of Panama’s political system. Members of the middle class,
consisting largely of teachers and government workers, occasionally gained political prominence. Aspiring to upper-class
stations, they failed to unite with the lower classes to displace the oligarchy. Students were the most vocal element of the
middle class and the group most disposed to speak for the inarticulate poor; as graduates, however, they were generally
coopted by the system.
A great chasm separated the rural section from the urban population of the two major cities. Only the rural wageworkers,
concentrated in the provinces of Bocas del Toro and Chiriqu , appeared to follow events in the capital and to express
themselves on issues of national policy. Among the urban lower classes, antagonism between the Spanish speakers and the
English- and French-speaking blacks inhibited organization in pursuit of common interests.
Literacy was high–about 77 percent–despite the scarcity of secondary schools in the rural areas. Voter turnout also tended
to be high, despite the unreliability of vote counts. (A popular saying is “He who counts the votes elects.”) Concentration
on the sins of the United States had served as a safety valve, diverting attention from the injustices of the domestic system.
The multi-party system that existed until the coup d’ tat of 1968 served to regulate competition for political power among
the leading families. Individual parties characteristically served as the personal machines of leaders, whose clients
(supporters or dependents) anticipated jobs or other advantages if their candidate were successful. Of the major parties
competing in the 1960s, only the highly factionalized PLN had a history of more than two decades. The only parties that
had developed clearly identifiable programs were the small Socialist Party and the Christian Democratic Party (Partido
Dem crato Cristiano—PDC). The only party with a mass base was the Paname ista Party (Partido Paname ista—PP), the
electoral vehicle of the erratic former president, Arnulfo Arias. The Paname ista Party appealed to the frustrated, but lacked
a clearly recognizable ideology or program.
Seven candidates competed in the 1964 presidential elections, although only three were serious contenders. Robles, who
had served as minister of the presidency in Chiari’s cabinet, was the candidate of the National Opposition Union,
comprising the PLN and seven smaller parties. After lengthy backstage maneuvers, Robles was endorsed by the outgoing
president. Juan de Arco Galindo, a former member of the National Assembly and public works minister and brother-in-law
of former President de la Guardia, was the candidate of the National Opposition Alliance (Alianza Nacional de Oposici n)
coalition, comprising seven parties headed by the CPN. Arnulfo Arias was supported by the PP, already the largest single
party in the country.
As usual, the status of the canal was a principal issue in the campaign. Both the liberal and the CPN coalitions cultivated
nationalist sentiment by denouncing the United States. Arias, abandoning his earlier nationalistic theme, assumed a
cooperative and conciliatory stance toward the United States. Arias attracted lower-class support by denouncing the
oligarchy. The Electoral Tribunal announced that Robles had defeated Arias by a margin of more than 10,000 votes of the
317,312 votes cast. The CPN coalition trailed far behind the top two contenders. Arias supporters, who had won a majority
of the National Assembly seats, attributed Robles’s victory to the “miracle of Los Santos”; they claimed that enough
corpses voted for Robles in that province to enable him to carry the election.
The problems confronting Robles were not unlike those of his predecessors but were aggravated by the consequences of
the 1964 riots. In addition to the hardships and resentments resulting from the losses of life and property, the riots had the
effect of dramatically increasing the already serious unemployment in the metropolitan areas. Despite his nationalistic
rhetoric during the campaign, the new president was dependent on United States economic and technical assistance to
develop projects that Chiari’s government, also with United States assistance, had initiated. Chiari emphasized building
schools and low-cost housing. He endorsed a limited agrarian-reform program. Like his predecessor, Robles sought to
increase the efficiency of tax collection rather than raise taxes.
By 1967 the coalitions were being reshuffled in preparation for the 1968 elections. By the time Arias announced his
candidacy, he had split both the coalitions that had participated in the 1964 elections and had secured the support of several
factions in a coalition headed by the Paname ista Party. Robles’s endorsement went to David Samudio of the PLN. A civil
engineer and architect of middle-class background, Samudio had served as an assemblyman and had held several cabinet
posts, including that of finance minister under Robles. In addition to the PLN, he was supported by the Labor and Agrarian
Party (Partido Laborista Agrario–PALA) and other splinter groups. (Party labels are deceptive; the PALA, for example,
had neither an agrarian base nor organized labor support.) A PDC candidate, Antonio Gonz lez Revilla, also entered the
Because many of Arias’s supporters believed that the 1964 election had been rigged, the principal issue in the 1968
campaign became the prospective validity of the election itself. The credibility crisis became acute in February 1968 when
the president of the Electoral Tribunal, a Samudio supporter, closed the central registration office in a dispute with the other
two members of the tribunal, Arias supporters, over electoral procedures. The government brought suit before the Supreme
Court for their dismissal, on the grounds that each man had a son who was a candidate for elective office. Thereupon
Gonz lez Revilla, with the backing of Arias, petitioned the National Assembly to begin impeachment proceedings against
Robles for illegal interferences in electoral matters. Among other issues, Robles was accused of diverting public funds to
Samudio’s campaign.
The National Assembly met in special session and appointed a commission to gather evidence. Robles, in turn, obtained a
judgment from a municipal court that the assembly was acting unconstitutionally. The National Assembly chose to ignore a
stay order issued by the municipal court pending the reconvening of the Supreme Court on April 1, and on March 14 it
voted for impeachment. On March 24, the National Assembly found Robles guilty and declared him deposed. Robles and
the National Guard ignored the proceedings, maintaining that they would abide by the decision of the Supreme Court when
it reconvened.
The Supreme Court, with only one dissenting vote, ruled the impeachment proceedings unconstitutional. The Electoral
Tribunal subsequently ruled that thirty of the parliamentary deputies involved in the impeachment proceedings were
ineligible for reelection. Robles, with the support of the National Guard, retained the presidency.
The election took place on May 12, 1968, as scheduled, and tension mounted over the succeeding eighteen days as the
Election Board and the Electoral Tribunal delayed announcing the results. Finally the Election Board declared that Arias had
carried the election by 175,432 votes to 133,887 for Samudio and 11,371 for Gonz lez Revilla. The Electoral Tribunal,
senior to the Board and still loyal to Robles, protested, but the commander of the National Guard, Brigadier General
Bol var Vallarino, despite past animosity toward Arias, supported the conclusion of the Board.
Arias took office on October 1, demanding the immediate return of the Canal Zone to Panamanian jurisdiction and
announcing a change in the leadership of the National Guard. He attempted to remove the two most senior officers,
Vallarino and Colonel Jos Mar a Pinilla, and appoint Colonel Bol var Urrutia to command the force. On October 11 the
Guard, for the third time, removed Arias from the presidency. With seven of his eight ministers and twentyfour members
of the National Assembly, Arias took refuge in the Canal Zone.
Data as of December 1987
The Government of Torrijos and the National Guard
The overthrow of Arias provoked student demonstrations and rioting in some of the slum areas of Panama City. The
peasants in Chiriqu Province battled guardsmen sporadically for several months, but the Guard retained control. Urrutia
was initially arrested but was later persuaded to join in the two-man provisional junta headed by Pinilla. Vallarino
remained in retirement. The original cabinet appointed by the junta was rather broad based and included several Samudio
supporters and one Arias supporter. After the first three months, however, five civilian cabinet members resigned,
accusing the new government of dictatorial practices.
The provisional junta moved swiftly to consolidate government control. Several hundred actual or potential political
leaders were arrested on charges of corruption or subversion. Others went into voluntary or imposed exile, and property
owners were threatened with expropriation. The National Assembly and all political parties were disbanded, and the
University of Panama was closed for several months while its faculty and student body were purged. The
communications media were brought under control through censorship, intervention in management, or expropriation.
Pinilla, who assumed the title of president, had declared that his government was provisional and that free elections were
to be scheduled. In January 1969, however, power actually rested in the hands of Omar Torrijos and Boris Mart nez,
commander and chief of staff, respectively, of the Guard. In early March, a speech by Martinez promising agrarian
reform and other measures radical enough to alarm landowners and entrepreneurs provoked a coup within the coup.
Torrijos assumed full control, and Martinez and three of his supporters in the military government were exiled.
Torrijos stated that “there would be less impulsiveness” in government without Martinez. Torrijos did not denounce the
proposed reforms, but he assured Panamanian and United States investors that their interests were not threatened.
Torrijos, now a brigadier general, became even more firmly entrenched in power after thwarting a coup attempted by
Colonels Amado Sanjur, Luis Q. Nentzen Franco, and Ramiro Silvera in December 1969. While Torrijos was in
Mexico, the three colonels declared him deposed. Torrijos rushed back to Panama, gathered supporters at the garrison in
David, and marched triumphantly into the capital. The colonels followed earlier competitors of Torrijos into exile.
Because the governing junta (Colonel Pinilla and his deputy, Colonel Urrutia) had not opposed the abortive coup,
Torrijos replaced them with two civilians, Demetrio B. Lakas, an engineer well liked among businessmen, and Arturo
Sucre, a lawyer and former director of the national lottery. Lakas was designated “provisional president,” and Sucre was
appointed his deputy.
In late 1969 a close associate of Torrijos announced the formation of the New Panama Movement. This movement was
originally intended to organize peasants, workers, and other social groups and was patterned after that of Mexico’s
Institutional Revolutionary Party. No organizational structure was established, however, and by 1971 the idea had been
abandoned. The government party was revived under a different name, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (Partido
Revolucionario Democr tico–PRD) in the late 1970s.
A sweeping cabinet reorganization and comments of high-ranking officials in 1971 por