Chronography of Panama

Page last modified 28 October 2023


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See also South/Central America


Graphic of Latin America 2010-19 socio-political


29 May 2017, Manuel Noriega, former ruler of Panama, died aged 83.

23 October 2006, A referendum in Panama endorsed widening the Canal to allow the largest ships to pass.

2005, Martin Torrijos began his social security reforms by raising pension contributions and increasing the retirement age. There were street protests.

2004, Martin Tirrijos, Democratic Revolutionary Party, became President, He promised to fight corruption and unemployment and improve the bsocial security system.

1999, Mireya Moscoso was elected the first woman President of Panama. She wanted to redistribute money to the poor, but was hampered by her lack of a legislative majority.

1999, All US troops left Panana as the Canal Zone was handed back (see 1977).

1994, The Democratic Revolutionary Party, once led by Noriega but now pro-USA, won Presidential and Legislative elections.


Rule of President Noreiga 1987-1990

3 January 1990, Noriega surrendered to US forces (he had taken refuge in The Vatican diplomatic mission) and was arrested and taken tio the USA o drugs charges.

20 December 1989, The US invaded Panama (Operation Just Cause) with 23,000 troops and installed the apparent winner of the 1989 elections, Guillermo Endara, as President, Noreiga was accused of drug-related activities.

3 October 1989, In Panama, a military coup against Noriega failed.

1 September 1989, The US broke off diplomatic relations with Panama.

1989, New Presidential elections were held; however three days later Manuel Noriega annulled the results. He remained as President,

1987, Panama declared a State of Emergency after proetsts following alleged rigging of the 1984 elections, ostensiobly won by General Manuel Noriega.

11 February 1938, Manuel Noriega was born.




Rule of Herrera 1968-81

31 July 1981, Panamanian dictator General Omar Torrijos Herrera was killed in a plane crash. Colonel Manuel Antonio Noriega, a CIA operative in Panama, began to develop his own power base.

1977, Torrijos and the USA (President Carter) signed a treaty transferring control of the Canal to Panama on 31 December 1999.

1968, Brigadier General Omar Torrijos Herrera came to power in a coup.


9 January 1964, Rioting in the Panama Canal Zone over the issue of whether the Panamanian Flag couldbe flown alongside the US Flag. 22 Panamanians and 4 US citizens died. The event is now commemorated as Martyr�s Day.

12 October 1962, The Bridge of the Americas opened in Panama, exactly three years after construction began. With clearance of over 200 feet (61 m), it was the first to allow traffic to cross uninterrupted between Central America and South America because the bridge did not need to be moved

26 April 1959, A small band of rebels planning a coup against Panamanian President Ernesto de la Guarda were arrested.

2 January 1955, President Jose Remon of Panama was assassinated.

9 October 1941, Ricardo Adolfo de la Guardia Arango became President of Panama.

2 January 1931, President of Panama Florencio Harmodio Arosemena was overthrown and imprisoned by a military junta.


Panama breaks away from Colombia; Panama Canal built

15/8/1914, The 40-mile long Panama Canal opened; construction work had begun on 4 July 1914. The first ship to pass through the canal, this day, was the SS Ancon. Ships passed through three locks 30 metres wide and 300 metres long, rising to 85 feet above sea level at Lake Gatun, which had been created by damming a river, before descending through more locks. Since 1914 over one million ships have used the Canal, saving 3,000 miles and eight days of travel around Cape Horn. In 2013 12,036 vessels, carrying 319 million tonnes of cargo, transitted the Canal, paying US$ 1,800 million in tolls. 86.7 million tons of this cargo originated from the USA, and 49.8 million tons was destined for the USA. In 2013 some 3% of world maritime cargo, worth US$ 270 billion (UK� 160 million at 2014 exchange rates). However many 21st century cargo ships are too big for the Canal, and in 2006 the Panama Canal Authority announced expansion plans, costed at US$ 3,200 million, due for completion in 2016.

23 April 1904, The US acquired the assets of the French Panama Canal Company.

29 February 1904, US President Roosevelt appointed a seven-man Panama Canal Commission to oversee the completion of the Canal.

18 November 1903, Panama granted the canal strip to US, by treaty ratified on 26 February 1904.


US-instigated Panamanian secession from Colombia, 1903

6 November 1903, The USA recognised Panamanian independence from Colombia, see 3 November 1903.

3 November 1903, Panama revolted (with US backing) and declared itself independent from Colombia. At precisely 6pm the rebels bribed the Colombian garrison to surrender, the USS Nashville steamed into Panama harbour, and Panama proclaimed its independence. On 6 November 1903 the US recognised Panamanian independence. On 12/8/1903 the Colombian Senate had rejected US plans for a canal at Panama. On 18 November 1903 the US and Panama signed a treaty to build the Canal. See 22 January 1903.On 2 November 1903 the US sent three warships to Panama.

18 October 1903, Panamanian revolutionaries in New York purchased fabric from Macey�s to create the new Panamanian flag. Mr Bunau-Varilla, a French engineer who had worked on the now-bankrupt French Panama canal construction

company, was named as the first Panamanian ambassador to the US, despite not being a resident of Panama.


17 March 1903, The US Senate ratified the Hay-Herran treaty of 2 January 1903 providing for the construction of the Panama canal. Terms included a 100-year lease on a ten mile wide strip of land in the Colombian province of Panama, on payment of US$ 10 million and annual rental of US$ 250,000 thereafter. However thye Colombian Senate rejected this treaty on 12 August 1903.

18 November 1901, A second Hay-Pauncefote Convention between the USA and Britain provided for the US toi build a canal across Panama.

20 December 1900, The US Senate insisted on the right to fortify a future Panama canal, contrary to the provisions of the first Hay-Pauncefote Treaty (5 February 1900) with Britain.

30 November 1900. The First Isthmian Canal Conference, convened by the US President, examined routes for a canal and favoured the Nicaraguan route over Panama. France had begun a Panama Canal in 1880 but the company had gone bankrupt; some in the US wanted this canal continued.

5 February 1900, The US and Britain signed the first Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, giving the US the right to construct a Canal across Panama, but not to fortify it. On 20 December 1900 the US Senate said it would only agree to this Treaty of the US had the right to fortify it. A second Hay-Pauncefote Treaty was signed in late 1901.


France attempts a canal, 1889-92

10 November 1892, In France the Panama Canal scandal became public, and its designer, de Lesseps, was charged withcorruption and incompetence.

1889, The French attempted to dig a canal at Panama, but the venture failed with 22,000 workers dead.


15 September 1900, Arbitration by the French president settled a boundary dispute between Costa Rica and Panama (then a province of Colombia).

1830, Gran Colombia broke up, but retained sovereignty over Panama.

1821, Panama became independent from Spain as part of Gran Colombia.

14 July 1698, The first settlers left Scotland for an ill-fated scheme to colonise Panama; the Darien scheme. 1,200 Scottish colonists set out to create the city of New Edinburgh, in mosquito-infested rainforest. Within a year all but 300 had died, and the project had cost a quarter of Dcotland�s national wealth. This loss allegedly persuaded Scotland to agree to the Act of Union with England in 1707.

28 January 1671, Panama City was sacked by Welsh pirate, Henry Morgan.

26 July 1527, The (Spanish) Council of the Indies granted Francisco Pizarro, 54, the right to conquer and take riches from the Panama area. The Panamian indigenous inhabitants were not consulted.

2 November 1503, Columbus discovered Panama. He also observed the inhabitants playing with a heavy black bouncing ball, made of a substance new to him, rubber.


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