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Panama, nationalism and popular mobilization, 1947–2000

María Ximena Alvarez Martínez


Panama's twentieth-century history is scarred by US intervention and aggression against the country's sovereignty. On November 18, 1903, only 15 days after its independence from Colombia, the Treaty of Hay-Bunau Varilla with the US was signed. This treaty granted the Americans the right to construct an inter-oceanic canal, military occupation of the zone, and the prerogative to grant its independence, an element used to justify US interventions in Panama's internal affairs. In 1941 a new constitutional article was approved that removed its authority for military intervention, but this was generally ignored. Hoping to maintain military bases outside the Canal Zone, in December 1947 the US sought approval of the Treaty of Defense Sites in the Panamanian National Assembly that would have extended a war measure passed in 1942. In spite of the frustrated efforts of President Enrique A Jimenes to convince the population that the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR, September 1947) would give the country the advantage of security, the people's opposition was quickly demonstrated. Members of Panama's Students' Federation (FEP), the Youth Patriotic Front, and other organizations took to the streets on December 12 to protest the treaty, which was seen as an insult to the country's already vulnerable sovereignty. This social upheaval with nationalistic undertones forced the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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