Panama is a small country with its geographical location in the north of Colombia and south of Costa Rica. It is among the most famous countries especially due to the presence of great Panama Canal that joins Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Panama has a democratically elected government comprised of the President and his two vice presidents. It also has the legislative and judicial arms that are also important in running the affairs of the state (Harding, 2006). However, it is worth noting that the country has a huge pre-independence history that will be discussed at length in this chapter.
Road to independence
Before the canal was built, Panama struggled for independence from Colombia. The union between Columbia and Panama started in early 1821 when Central America revolted against Spain. Over the years, Panama unsuccessfully strived to get its independence from Colombia. The political struggles between the two countries were culminated with the ‘’War of Thousand Days’’ that lasted between 1899 and 1903. At this time, US wanted to build the Canal, and Columbia was reluctant to this idea. This lead to the signing of the Hay-Harran Treaty that allowed United States to build the canal (Woods, 2009). Continued resistance of Colombia made the United States intervene leading to the country’s independence.
United States has been instrumental to the independence of Panama. The Colombian legislature was reluctant to releasing Panama as a sovereign state. It took the intervention of Bunau-Varilla, a French engineer, to lead a separatist rebellion in Panama. The revolt was made successful by the intervention of United States ships that prevented the Colombian troops from crossing the isthmus to Panama City.
After attaining separation from Colombia, the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and recognized as an international waterway. Nevertheless, the Canal Zone was a de facto colony of United States, and this did not augur well with the society (Hoebeke, n.d.). It was not until the 1950s when Colonel Jose Antonio Remon, military president of Panama, initiated the renegotiation of the 1903 treaty. Results of these negotiations were realized three years later when annuity payable to Panama was increased.
The battle for sovereignty was continued even after Egypt’s seizure of the Suez Canal. This time round, the protest was spearheaded by President Ricardo Arias, who was dissatisfied with Panama’s exclusion from a conference on Suez crisis. The strive to get independence from United States was taken a notch higher by Brigadier Torrijos Herrera, who pursued negations with U.S leadership of Nixon, Ford and Carter. The sovereignty over the canal was accepted through a treaty signed in 1970 (Harding, 2006). The Panama democracy was experienced after the defeat of Martin Torrijos, son of Omar Torrijos, by Moscoso, who became the first woman president in Latin America.
Her election had a significant challenge of transferring the canal from United States to Panama. The country feared that it lacked technical capabilities of running the international waterway as previously run by Americans. Martin Torrijos also made a significant contribution to his election as he supported independence for Puerto Rico and Cuba. He also facilitated the expansion of the canal.
To sum it up, Panama’s road to independence has not been an easy one. The country has struggled for its independence from Spain, Colombia and United States. However, the able leadership of its notable figures such as the Torrijos and U.S interventions has been critical to its independence. Throughout its battle for independence, Panama has experienced 13 US interventions. This is a clear indication that US has been instrumental to Panama’s road to independence
Friar, W. (2013). Moon Panama. Chico: Avalon Travel.
Harding, R. (2006). The history of Panama. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Hoebeke, C. The road to mass democracy.
Woods, S. (2009). Panama. Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks: Bradt Travel Guides.
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