Omar Torrijos of Panama
Omar Efrain Torrijos Herrera or more preferably known as Omar Torrijos of Panama was an officer in the Panamanian Army which became the leader of Panama from 1968 until 1921. Although Omar Torrijos of Panama never held an elected office or was ever president of the said country, he was considered as the “Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution” in the late period of the seventies.
Omar Torrijos of Panama was born on Veraguas (a province in Panama), and was educated at the Juan Demostenes Arosemena (a local school in his home province). He later was granted a scholarship to the military academy in San Salvador and graduated with a rank as second lieutenant. He joined the Panamanian Army under the National Guard or Guardia Nacional. Omar Torrijos was then promoted in 1956 as Captain and did further studies at the School of Americas.
By 1966 Omar Torrijos of Panama earned the rank of lieutenant colonel. Along with colonel Boris Martinez, led a successful coup d’etat against the democratically elected president of Panama, Arnulfo Arias. He then exiled Boris Martinez and made himself brigadier general. Omar Torrijos then further strengthen his power by carrying out authoritarian measures. He ordered the persecution of student leaders and labor group and ordered the disbandment of all the political parties and legislature. He led the closure of independent media outlets and conducted brutal anti guerrilla campaign in the western part of Panama. He survived a coup attempt led by his junior officers.
Omar Torrijos of Panama was regarded as the first ever Panamanian president that represents the majority of the Panamanian people, the poor population. He ordered the opening of schools and job opportunities for the less fortunate people of Panama. He introduced various social and economic reforms to fight poverty and redistributed lots of agricultural lands. He also led the persecution of the richest and most powerful individuals in Panama. Many of his opponents were exiled, imprisoned or killed. He was very intolerant of the opposition.
Omar Torrijos of Panama was also significant in the negotiation of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties which regards the Panama Canal. When his term as the Chief of Government ended in 1978, he retired and went to return to full civil authority, although he remained commander of the National Guard and made his second in command Aristides Royo as a figurehead president.
Omar Torrijos, along with several others, died in a plane crash in the mountain jungle of Panama. He was buried in the old city of Panama called “Casco Viejo” after a large state funeral. His body was then moved to a Mauseleum in a former Canal Zone near the city of Panama.
His son, Martin Torrijos Espino, later became the president of the Republic of Panama by way of a presidential election held on the 2nd of May year 2004. Martin Torrijos Espino took office on the 1st of September 2004.
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