Panama. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the government announced plans for a security
pact with the United States to curb intrusion into the
southern provinces of Darién and San Blás by the warring
parties in the Colombian civil war. The pact also intends to
fight drug trafficking.
In April 1991, Endara dissolved the alliance with the
Christian Democrats and removed the party's 5 ministers. The
government's lack of stability came, among other things.
expressed in 5 failed coup attempts during its first 2
years. At the January 1991 supplementary elections, the
opposition party received a major electoral victory and
demanded the re-election.
In late 1991, the lawsuit began against Manuel Antonio
Noriega in Miami. Here, the ex-dictator's close relations
with the CIA and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) were
revealed. At the same time, it emerged that a legal
commission of inquiry, which also included President Endara,
had contacts with 14 companies involved in the laundering of
drug dollars. Finally, the DEA was able to report that drug
traffic had intensified following the invasion. In June
1992, Noriega was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The government suffered severe defeat when a referendum
to amend the constitution on November 15, 1992 was won by
no since by 63.5% against 31.5%. In particular, the
people had rejected the formal dissolution of the country's
defense forces. The government was further weakened when
Second Vice President, Christian Democrat Ricardo Arias
Calderón resigned, accusing President Endara of being
incapable of handling the social crisis.
Other corruption scandals shook the country in the wake
of the sentencing of Noriega. In August 1993, it emerged
that Panama, through its Barcelona consulate, had purchased
weapons for the Serbian forces in Bosnia. The disclosure led
to the resignation of Foreign Minister Julio Linares. He had
been directly involved in the case.
1994 PRD back in power
In 1994, economist Ernesto Pérez Balladares was elected
president with 34% of the vote. He was former minister and
declared admirer of Omar Torrijos. Balladares was a
candidate for the Social Democratic-oriented alliance Pueblo
Unido (the United People), made up of the PRD, the Liberal
Republican Party and the Labor Party. Mireya Moscoso of the
right-wing Democratic Alliance got 29% of the vote, while
singer Ruben Blades of the Movement "Papa Egoró" got 17%.
These were the first general elections following the US
invasion of the country.
In June 1994, the Kuna and embera people condemned
the construction of a road through their autonomous
territories. They received support from environmental groups
and from the Catholic Church. The road was to pass through
the Darien rainforest - a 550,000-acre site declared by
UNESCO for humanity's common property. The 108 km road was
to connect Panama with Colombia. For many years this forest
area has been exposed to illegal felling of its oak, cedar
and mahogany trees. Furthermore, coca bushes are grown in
the area and weapons are smuggled through it.
In January 1995, a plan for the assassination of
President Pérez Balladares and several ministers of his
government was revealed. Ten members of the National Police
were arrested for conspiracy, but the investigation was
suspended because of the lack of evidence.
The country continued to play an important role in the
arms, drug and money laundering trade of drug dollars.
During the inspection of a package that was supposed to
contain drugs, it exploded, killing 3 customs officials and
wounding 25. The box of ammunition and grenades had been
sent to an address in Ecuador - presumably to a guerrilla
group. Two weapons depots belonging to a Colombian were also
discovered in the capital.
The government implemented labor market reform aimed at
attracting foreign investment. It triggered strikes and
other conflicts when it emerged that workers' protection was
reduced and the rights to form trade unions and collective
bargaining were curtailed. The clashes between workers,
students and police in August cost 4 killed and 86 wounded,
yet the law reform was passed.
The Panama-US negotiations on the transfer of the canal
in 1999 began to talk about continuing North American
military presence in the country even after 1999. In July,
Pérez Balladares declared the Howard airbase would remain in
North American hands - "for the purpose of restricting drug
traffic". This year, the US military spent $ 319 million in
Panama, equivalent to 5% of the country's GDP.
The announcement of the continued presence of the North
American troops in Panama took place after it was revealed
that Balladares himself had received money from the Cali
drug cartel in Colombia ifbm. its 1994 election campaign.
The president acknowledged having received money but refused
to know where they came from. This scandal was followed by
the closure of the bank Banco Agro Industrial y Comercial
due to its extensive debt and participation in the
laundering of drug dollars.