Omar Torrijos Herrera, Manuel Noriega, controlled government, colonels, civilian government
Panama has well-rooted democratic traditions dating back to independence from Spain in 1821. Panama adopted constitutions in 1903, 1946, and 1972. These have been amended to fit changing times, and major revisions were made in 1983. All citizens 18 years of age and above are required to vote in elections.
Despite Panama’s democratic traditions, the military has been heavily involved in politics since the 1930s and controlled government from 1968 to 1989. Panama officially had no army after granting the United States defense powers in 1903, but it has maintained a military police force called the National Police (1903-1953), the National Guard (1953-1983), the Panama Defense Forces (1983-1989), and the Public Forces (1990- ). By the late 1940s, the commander of the police, Jose Antonio Remon, effectively selected and removed presidents, and in 1952 Remon himself became president. Only after he was assassinated in 1955 did the police pull back from active involvement in government.
In 1968, however, two colonels led a coup that overthrew the president and initiated a 22-year dictatorship. The dominant figures were Omar Torrijos Herrera (1969-1981) and Manuel Noriega (1984-1989). A U.S. invasion in 1989 removed Noriega, disbanded the military, and restored civilian government.
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