Lieutenant Colonel Omar Torrijos takes power in Panama

After the election of Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid as President of Panama, the Panamanian National Guard staged a coup against Arias on October 11, 1968.  The coup was led by then Lieutenant Colonel Omar Torrijos, which was the starting point of Torrijos’ career as a politician.  Under the military’s control, Panama initiated land redistribution, encouraged self-sufficiency for small farmers, and expanded educational opportunities.  One of Torrijos’ most dramatic achievements, supported by the military, was the renegotiation of the Panama Canal treaty, which returned the territory to Panamanian control.  Reviled by some and praised by many, Torrijos was a complex personality.  In the words of one biographer, “Any man who could claim both Fidel Castro and John Wayne as friends had to possess considerable charm.”  (Please see February 13 for more on the life of Omar Torrijos.)

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