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Martín Torrijos

Martín Torrijos
President of Panama
In office
September 1, 2004 – July 1, 2009
Vice President Samuel Lewis Navarro
Rubén Arosemena
Preceded by Mireya Moscoso
Succeeded by Ricardo Martinelli
Personal details
Born (1963-07-18) July 18, 1963
Chitré, Panama
Political party Democratic Revolutionary Party
Spouse(s) Vivian Fernández
Alma mater Texas A&M University
Occupation economist, politician

Martín Erasto Torrijos Espino (Spanish pronunciation: ; born July 18, 1963, in Chitré, Herrera) is a Panamanian politician and a former President of the Republic of Panama.

He was fathered out of wedlock by Panamanian military ruler Omar Torrijos, Martín Torrijos was educated in economics and political science in the US. He then returned to Panama, becoming active in the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). He was the party's presidential candidate in the 1999 general election, losing to Arnulfista Party candidate Mireya Moscoso.

In the 2004 presidential election, he ran again as the PRD candidate. This time, his primary rival was Solidarity Party candidate Guillermo Endara, whom Torrijos defeated 47% to 31%. Torrijos reformed social security and pensions during his term in office, as well as proposing and passing a $5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. Torrijos was succeeded by supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli in 2009.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Presidential campaigns 2
  • Presidency 3
  • Honours 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7

Early life and career

Martín Torrijos is the son of military ruler Omar Torrijos, who was Panama's social reformer and military strongman from 1968 until his death in a 1981 plane crash. The younger Torrijos is an illegitimate child primarily raised by his mother, but his father publicly acknowledged him when he became a teenager.[1][2] He is a graduate of St. John's Northwestern Military Academy located in Delafield, Wisconsin, US,[3] and studied political science and economics at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.[4] During his time in the US, he also worked in Chicago, managing a McDonald's restaurant.[5]

During the presidency of Ernesto Pérez Balladares (1994–1999), Torrijos served as deputy minister for the interior and justice. His most significant act as deputy minister was to sign into law the complete privatization of Panama's water utilities. When the new law proved unpopular, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) effected a reversion to the previous system. During his term in office the rate of armed robberies and assault increased. There were several reported cases where SUNTRACS, a workers union, was angered, causing several riots which involved rock flinging.

Presidential campaigns

After the failure of a constitutional referendum that would have allowed PRD incumbent Ernesto Pérez Balladares to seek a second consecutive term, Torrijos was named to represent the PRD in the 1999 general election. Torrijos was selected in part to try to win back left-leaning voters after the privatizations and union restrictions instituted by Pérez Balladares.[6] His main opponent was Arnulfista Party candidate Mireya Moscoso, widow of former Panamanian president Arnulfo Arias, who had been deposed in the military coup that had brought Torrijos's father Omar to power. Moscoso ran on a populist platform, beginning many of her speeches with the Latin phrase "Vox populi, vox Dei" ("the voice of the people is the voice of God"), previously used by Arias to begin his own speeches.[7] She pledged to support education, reduce poverty, and slow the pace of privatization.[8] While Torrijos ran in large part on his father's memory—including using the campaign slogan "Omar lives"[7]—Moscoso evoked that of her dead husband, leading Panamanians to joke that the election was a race between "two corpses".[9] Torrijos and the PRD were ultimately hampered by the corruption scandals of the previous administration, as well as a scandal in which La Prensa reported that two members of his campaign had been bribed by Mobil to sell a former US military base.[10] Moscoso defeated Torrijos with 45% of the vote to 37%.[6]

Torrijos ran again in the 2004 presidential election on a platform of strengthening democracy and negotiating a free trade agreement with the US, and was supported by popular musician and politician Ruben Blades;[11] Torrijos later made Blades the nation's tourism minister.[12] Torrijos' primary rival was Guillermo Endara, who had served as president from 1990 to 1994. Endara ran as the candidate of the Solidarity Party, on a platform of reducing crime and government corruption.[13] Endara and the other candidates also ran a series of negative ads highlighting the PRD's connections with former military ruler Manuel Noriega.[5] Endara finished second in the race, receiving 31% of the vote to Torrijos' 47%.[11]

Shortly before leaving office, Moscoso sparked controversy by pardoning four men—Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jimenez, Pedro Remon and Guillermo Novo Sampol—who had been convicted of plotting to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro during a 2000 visit to Panama. Cuba broke off diplomatic relations with the country, and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez recalled the nation's ambassador.[14] Moscoso stated that the pardons had been motivated by her mistrust of Torrijos, saying, "I knew that if these men stayed here, they would be extradited to Cuba and Venezuela, and there they were surely going to kill them there."[15]


Martín Torrijos and Oval Office, February 16, 2007

In May 2005, the Torrijos government proposed increasing pension contributions and raising the retirement age to help pay off the nation's increasing foreign debt. The changes triggered several weeks of protests, strikes, and a student-led closure of the University of Panama, and the proposal to increase the retirement age was postponed. Following opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and union leaders, Torrijos also initially postponed plans to reform social security,[4] though he successfully passed a reform measure later in his term.[16]

Torrijos's temporary unpopularity forced him also postpone plans for widening the Panama Canal until 2006.[17] In April of that year, he presented a plan, calling it "probably the most important decision of this generation". The expansion was projected to double the canal's shipping capacity and allow it to handle oil tankers and cruise ships, at a projected cost of $5 billion. The plan was approved by public referendum on October 22 of that year with 78% of the vote.[18]

In November 2006, Torrijos sponsored the Latin American and Caribbean Congress in Solidarity with Puerto Rico's Independence in favor of Puerto Rico's independence and made an energetic call to the United States to recognise the independence of Puerto Rico.[19] His administration opposed Colombian president Alvaro Uribe's proposals to build a road through the undeveloped Darién Gap connecting the country's, stating that it could damage ecotourism in the region.[20]

In 2007, Torrijos negotiated the

Political offices
Preceded by
Mireya Moscoso
President of Panama
Succeeded by
Ricardo Martinelli
  • Biography by CIDOB (in Spanish)

External links

  • Harding, Robert C. (2006). The History of Panama. Greenwood Press.  


  1. ^ Mary Jordan (May 3, 2004). "Former Military Ruler's Son Wins Presidency in Panama". The Washington Post.  – via  
  2. ^ "Not his father's son? Panama's new president". The Economist.  – via  
  3. ^ "St. John's Northwestern Military Academy". Archived from the original on September 18, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Harding 2006, p. 135.
  5. ^ a b Mary Jordan (May 2, 2004). "General's Son Leads in Panama; Running as a Pro-Capitalist Nationalist, Torrijos Emerges as Favorite in Polls". The Washington Post.  – via  
  6. ^ a b Harding 2006, p. 129.
  7. ^ a b Serge F. Kovaleski (May 3, 1999). "Moscoso Is First Woman Elected to Panamanian Presidency". The Washington Post.  – via  
  8. ^ "Mireya Moscoso". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ Mireya Navarro (May 3, 1999). "The Widow Of Ex-Leader Wins Race In Panama". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Another Torrijos". The Economist.  – via  
  11. ^ a b "Not his father's son? Panama's new president.(Martin Torrijos)". The Economist. May 8, 2004. Retrieved August 31, 2012. (subscription required)
  12. ^ "Nicky Hilton Weds One Hilton ...". The Washington Post.  – via  
  13. ^ Mark Stevenson (May 2, 2004). "Guillermo Endara, former president of Panama, fights against corruption, crime". Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 31, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2012. (subscription required)
  14. ^ Steven R. Weisman (September 2, 2004). "Panama's New Chief, Sworn In, Inherits a Diplomatic Tempest". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  15. ^ Glenn Kessler (August 27, 2004). "U.S. Denies Role in Cuban Exiles' Pardon". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Glitter and graft". The Economist.  – via  
  17. ^ "Tight squeeze". The Economist.  – via  
  18. ^ Will Weissert (October 23, 2006). "Canal Upgrade Plan Approved; Voters in Panama Favor $5 Billion Expansion by Wide Margin". The Washington Post.  – via  
  19. ^ Puerto Rico State Electoral Commission: Official Results for the 1998 Political-Status Plebiscite
  20. ^ "Minding the Gap". The Economist.  – via  
  21. ^ a b "Party time". The Economist. January 17, 2008. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2012. 
  22. ^ a b Marc Lacey (November 28, 1997). "Fugitive From U.S. Justice Leads Panama’s Assembly". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2012. 
  23. ^ Mica Rosenberg (May 4, 2009). "Panama's president-elect to push US trade deal". Reuters. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  24. ^ Jim Abrams (October 13, 2011). "Congress passes 3 free trade agreements". Associated Press  – via  
  25. ^ "Super 09; Panama's presidential election". The Economist.  – via  
  26. ^ "Noblesse et Royautés", State visit of Panama in Spain, November 2008


His wife, Vivian Fernández, Grand Cross of the same order.


Torrijos was again popular by the end of his term, but because Panama's constitution forbids consecutive second terms for the presidency, the PRD nominated Balbina Herrera as a candidate to succeed him in 2009. She lost to an independent candidate, Ricardo Martinelli, the owner of a supermarket chain.[25]

[24][23].Ricardo Martinelli The deal was finally ratified under Torrijos's successor, [21] Unwilling to publicly battle his party's nationalist wing, Torrijos privately asked González Pinzón to resign, but avoided criticizing him in the press.[22] and some members of the US Congress vowed to oppose the pact until González Pinzón no longer held the post.[22],Zak Hernández was elected President of the National Assembly. González Pinzón had been indicted by a US grand jury for the 1992 murder of US Army Sgt. Pedro Miguel González Pinzón Though ratified in Panama and apparently headed to ratification in the US, the agreement was derailed in September 2007 when fellow PRD member [21]

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