The military foundations of Panamanian politics: From the national police to the PRD and beyond

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Ambler Jr. Moss - Committee Chair


Panamanian political studies have traditionally examined the isthmus's political system from the perspective of the intimate U.S.-Panama relationship and, very infrequently, from the perspective of the agency of the Panamanian actors. Foremost among these actors has been the Panamanian military, which played a pivotal role as the ultimate arbiter in the country's political system throughout this century, finally assuming direct state control in a coup in 1968 under General Omar Torrijos. While the military has been a paramount component, analyses of the perennial political role and contributions of the Panamanian military are few and scattered.This work examines the corporate and political growth of the Panamanian military, filtering this analysis through civil-military theory to understand why the military finally intervened and, more importantly, how this military political situation gave rise to the Partido Revolucionario Democratico, the "official" party of the military, designed to institutionalize and legitimize changes wrought by the years of military dictatorship.The resumption of democratic rule in 1990 reinstituted civilian politics and, eventually, abolished the military, but the military's political legacy endures in the system created during its rule and compromises the legitimacy of today's democratic government.


History, Latin American; Political Science, General; Political Science, International Law and Relations

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