AD 1502: The Spanish explorer, Rodrigo de Bastidas, visited what is now known as Panama, which was inhabited by Cuna, Choco, Guaymi and other indigenous Indian groups. 1513: The Spaniard, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, was made Governor of Panama, but was later executed. 1519: Panama became part of the Spanish viceroyalty of New Andalucia (later New Granada). 1821: Panama achieved independence from Spain and joined the confederacy of Gran Colombia, which included Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. 1830: Panama became part of Colombia following the collapse of Gran Colombia. 1847: The Panama Railroad Company was formed by a group of New York financiers; the company secured an exclusive concession from Colombia allowing construction of a track crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. 1850-55: The Panama Railroad Company undertook construction of a railway across Panama. 1879: Work began on building a canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by the French Panama Canal Co. 1888: The attempt by the French Panama Canal Co. to build a canal failed as a result of financial difficulties and the death of thousands of workers from yellow fever and malaria. November 1903: Panama achieved independence from Colombia. Earlier that year the USA had purchased the rights to build the Panama Canal from Colombia and was given control of the Canal Zone (a 10-mile-wide strip of Panamanian territory) for a 100-year period. However, objections to the treaty had been raised by the Colombian Congress, causing revolts in Panama. February 1904: The US Senate ratified a treaty with the Panamanian Government, granting Panama sovereignty and the USA ‘sovereign rights’. The USA effectively retained the right to military intervention to protect the Canal, and had its own military bases, police force and laws within the Canal Zone. 1939: Panama ceased to be a US protectorate by mutual agreement. 1941: The President of Panama, Arnulfo Arias Madrid, was overthrown in a bloodless coup d’état and replaced by Adolfo de la Guardia. 1945: De la Guardia refused to resign at the expiry of his term of office and was replaced by Enrique Jiménez. 1948: Domingo Díaz Arosemena defeated Arias Madrid at presidential elections, amid allegations of fraud on both sides. 1949: President Díaz died, and was replaced by Arias Madrid following a bloodless coup
1952: Remón was elected President and set about enacting a programme of moderate reforms. January 1955: Remón was assassinated. 23 January 1955: The Treaty of Mutual Understanding and Co-operation was signed with the USA. Under its provisions, US commercial activities not essential to the operation of the canal were to be reduced and a standard basic wage scale was implemented. Panama made concessions to the USA by allowing military bases to be constructed outside the Canal Zone, and leasing parts of its territory, to be used for US military manoeuvres, for no fee for a 15-year period. May 1958: Students demonstrating against the USA and its policy of paying US citizens in Panama 25% more than local workers, clashed with the National Guard. Nine people were killed. 1968-81: Arias Madrid won a presidential election, however, Col (later Brig.-Gen.) Omar Torrijos Herrera, the chief of the National Guard, overthrew the elected President after only 11 days in office and imposed a dictatorship; freedoms of the press, of speech and assembly were suspended for one year and a programme of economic modernization was launched. February 1969-October 1978: Party political activity was banned. 1972: Torrijos took the executive title of Chief of Government and legislative power was vested in the 505-member Asamblea Nacional de Représentantes de Corregimientos. September 1977: The USA and Panama signed two draft treaties agreeing to transfer the Canal to Panama as from 31 December 1999; a phased withdrawal of troops, with Panama eventually taking control of all US military bases in the Canal Zone (which would be renamed the Canal Area), was to commence prior to that date. The Panama Canal Co would be replaced by the Panama Canal Commission, and Panama and the USA were to be jointly responsible for guaranteeing the neutrality of the Canal. October 1977: The treaties on the transfer of the Canal were approved in a national referendum. 1978: Torrijos announced plans to return Panama to elected government; he resigned as Chief of Government in October (retaining the post of National Guard Commander), when a newly elected Asamblea Nacional endorsed his nominee, Dr Arístides Royo Sánchez, as President for a six-year term. Torrijos maintained his hold on power however, when his party, the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) won 10 seats in the 19-seat Consejo Nacional de Legislation in August. The elections were boycotted by Arias Madrid’s Partido Panameñista Auténtico (PPA). October 1979: Following a two-year delay, the US Congress ratified the treaties on the transfer of the Canal. 1981: Torrijos died in an air crash, which was claimed to be accidental, although allegations were made about US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) involvement. March 1982: Gen. Rubén Darío Paredes, a keen advocate of pro-US foreign policy, was appointed as Commander of the National Guard. July 1982: Gen. Paredes forced Royo from office, and the First Vice-President, Ricardo
informant, Brig, (later Gen.) Manuel Antonio Noriega Morena; he increased the size of the force, which he renamed the Panama Defence Forces, and greatly increased its power over Panama’s political and economic life. February 1984: Dr Jorge Illueca took over as President. May 1984: Nicolás Ardito Barletta of the PRD was elected President by a narrow margin. September 1985: Barletta resigned, amid allegations that the Defence Forces had assisted his election; he was replaced by Eric Arturo del Valle, who pledged a return to Torrijista principles’, but faced strong opposition to his economic policies. 1987: Gen. Noriega, the effective ruler since 1983, resisted calls for his removal, despite the suspension of US military aid and the imposition of economic sanctions. February 1988: Del Valle was replaced by Manuel Solis Palma following an attempt by him to depose Noriega. The latter, charged with drug smuggling by the USA, declared a state of emergency after the coup against him failed. May 1989: Noriega declared the results of legislative elections to be invalid after they were won by the opposition. December 1989: Noriega was declared Head of Government; later that month he declared a ‘state of war’ with the US, and on 20 December US forces intervened to overthrow him; Noriega was deposed. 21 December 1989: Guillermo Endara, who had won the disputed May elections, was installed as President. US economic sanctions were lifted. February 1990: A new Asamblea Legislativa was formed, based on the results of the May 1989 elections. The Alianza Democrática de Oposicion Civilista (ADOC) won 51 seats, the Coalición de Liberatión Nacional (COLINA) took six and new elections were held for the remainder. October 1991: An attempted coup d’état against the Government was unsuccessful. 26 December 1991: Constitutional reforms were approved by the Asamblea, including the abolition of a standing army; a privatization programme was introduced. 10 July 1992: A US court found Noriega guilty of drug offences and money laundering and sentenced him to 40 years’ imprisonment, to be served in a US prison. 15 November 1992: A referendum proposing the constitutional reforms approved by the Asamblea in December 1991 was defeated. 8 May 1994: Ernesto Pérez Balladares of the PRD was elected President; the Constitution was amended by the Asamblea and the army was formally abolished. 4 October 1994: Noriega was sentenced in absentia by a Panamanian court to 20 years’ imprisonment for the murder of a senior military officer in 1989. 30 August 1998: Voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the President to seek election to a second term. March 1999: Noriega’s sentence was reduced to 30 years, following an appeal by his lawyers claiming that he had given years of service to the USA as an ‘asset’ of the CIA. 2 May 1999: Nueva Nación (NN), led by Martín Torrijos, the son of Gen. Torrijos, won a majority at legislative elections, taking 41 of the 71 seats; the Union por Panama (UPP)
National Unity was formed, comprising members of the Partido Solidaridad, the Partido Liberal Nacional (PLN), the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (PDC) and the Partido Renovation Civilista (PRC). Moscoso reached an agreement with six minority parties in order to achieve a working parliamentary majority of one seat. November 1999: The last US military base in the Canal Area was closed. 31 December 1999: Panama took full control of the Panama Canal, ending nearly a century of US jurisdiction over one of the world’s most strategic waterways. The canal became a fully commercial operation (under US control it had been run on a non-profit basis). March 2000: A five-year modernization project for the Canal was announced, including the development of technology to raise capacity, the construction of a second bridge and the widening of the narrowest section of the Canal. 24 August 2000: The PRD and the PDC formed an alliance, removing the governing coalition’s small majority. 27 December 2000: Moscoso announced the creation of a panel to investigate crimes committed while military governments were in power between 1968 and 1989.