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Panama: The Post-Torrijos Era
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The Post-Torrijos Era


Torrijos had been the unifying influence in Panama's political system. He had kept Royo in the presidency, the PRD functioning, and the Guard united. The groups were loyal to him but distrustful of each other.

Florez completed twenty-six years of military service in March 1982 and was forced to retire. He was replaced by his own chief of staff, General Rubén Darío Paredes, who considered himself to be Torrijos's rightful successor and the embodiment of change and unity (Torrijos had been grooming Paredes for political office since 1975). In a press interview, Paredes stated that he had become "what some people sometimes call a strong man." Without delay the new Guard commander asserted himself in Panamanian politics and formulated plans to run for the presidency in 1984. Many suspected that Paredes had struck a deal with Colonel Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno, who had been the assistant chief of staff for intelligence since 1970, whereby Noriega would assume command of the Guard and Paredes would become president in 1984. Paredes publicly blamed Royo for the rapidly deteriorating economy and the pocketing of millions of dollars from the nation's social security system by government officials.

In July 1982, growing labor unrest led to an outbreak of strikes and public demonstrations against the Royo administration. Paredes, claiming that "the people wanted change," intervened to remove Royo from the presidency. With National Guard backing, Paredes forced Royo and most of his cabinet to resign on July 30, 1982, almost one year to the day after the death of Torrijos. Royo was succeeded by Vice President Ricardo de la Espriella, a United States-educated former banking official. De la Espriella wasted no time in referring to the National Guard as a "partner in power."

In August 1982, President de la Espriella formed a new cabinet that included independents and members of the Liberal Party and the PRD; Jorge Illueca Sibauste, Royo's foreign minister, became the new vice president. Meanwhile, Colonel Armando Contreras became chief of staff of the National Guard. Colonel Noriega continued to hold the powerful position of assistant chief of staff for intelligence -- the Panamanian government's only intelligence arm. In December 1982, Noriega became chief of staff of the National Guard.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 31 of 142


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