Arnulfo Arias bigraphy, stories - President of Panama

Arnulfo Arias : biography

August 15, 1901 - August 10, 1988

Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid (August 15, 1901 – August 10, 1988) was a Panamanian politician, doctor, writer and president of Panama on three occasions: 1940–41, 1949–51, and for 10 days in October 1968. He is known as the president who never ended his terms of office, because of the military coups against him.


In the morning of August 10, 1988, while watching television, Arnulfo died just 5 days before his 87th birthday in his house located in Coral Gables, Miami due to natural causes. His wife, Mireya Moscoso was with him at the time of his death. His body was transferred to Panama City, where he was ultimately buried in Jardin de Paz cemetery, located in Parque Lefevre. His supporters used his funeral as a protest against Noriega. On January 7, 2012, in order to fulfill one of his last wishes, he was re-buried in the mausoleum of the Arias Madrid family museum, in Penonomé, Coclé province, Panama.

In Panama, there are monuments, schools, and a township street bearing his name.

Arias' party regained power after the U.S. invasion of Panama a year later. Its presidential candidate, Guillermo Endara, had won elections earlier that year, only to have them annulled by Noriega. It was renamed the Arnulfista Party in 1990, and in 2005 regained its old name, the Panameñista Party.

Personal life

Arias was married to Ana Matilde Linares in 1927. She died in 1955. Arias married Mireya Moscoso in 1964. He remained married until his death. Moscoso later became the first woman President of Panama following the 1999 elections.


Arias was born in Penonomé, main town of Coclé, a province in western Panama. He was the son of Antonio Arias and Carmen Madrid, and the brother of Harmodio Arias, who served as President of Panama from 1932-1936. He wrote his first letters with the French Christian Brothers in his native city. He studied medicine and surgery at Harvard University. Later, he specialized in psychiatry, obstetrics and endocrinology.

Political life

In 1925, Arias returned to Panama and assumed leadership of the nationalistic organization Patriotic Communal Action. This organization tapped into a building current of discontent in Panama against the considerable influence the United States exerted on the country. It formed the nucleus of the present-day Panameñista Party. Panama had been, for all intents and purposes, a U.S. protectorate since gaining independence in 1903.

In 1931, Arias led a coup that deposed Liberal President Florencio Harmodio Arosemena. The next year, he helped his brother Harmodio become president. He subsequently served in cabinet and diplomatic posts. In 1940, he was elected president by an unprecedented majority as the candidate of the National Revolutionary Party (PNR, which became the Panameñista Party in the mid-1940s. Soon after taking office, Arias enacted a new constitution that granted women the right to vote for the first time. He was ousted in October 1941, in a coup supported by the United States.

He ran for president again in 1948 as the candidate of a coalition of his party and the Authentic Revolutionary Party and lost. However, a year later the National Assembly declared that he had actually won. He suspended the constitution and set up a secret police force. Corruption was widespread, and he was overthrown again in 1951. He ran unsuccessfully in 1964, then won the 1968 elections as the standard-bearer of a five-party coalition. Taking office in October, he maneuvered to gain control of the legislature and the Supreme Court and to restructure the command of the National Guard. After only 11 days as president, he was ousted for the third time and undertook a midnight escape to the Canal Zone. Arias had made the mistake of trying to send military leader Omar Torrijos to a foreign position which Torrijos felt he would lose money from uncollected bribes. The Presidential Palace was shot up by Torrijos men. Arias, having seen the Guards gone and after receiving a call from the Costa Rican President warning him that the border had been closed, left the Palace along with Hildebrando Nicosia his Chief of Staff and chose to divert to the Panama Canal Zone and U.S. refuge. The getaway car, driven by Nicosia's son-in-law, Michael Merry the Panama Manager of an international communications company, ran the blockaded border to safety. Arias and Nicosia later left the Canal Zone, exiled to Miami, {Florida}. His 93 year old mother however was sleeping upstairs, but was unharmed and undisturbed having taken her hearing aids out to sleep.Just Cause the real story by Alfanso Carlito Diaz

After the U.S. pressured military leader Omar Torrijos to liberalize his regime, Arias returned to Panama in 1978. While he was in exile, a small dissident group in his Panameñista Party joined the pro-Torrijos coalition, and took over the party's registration. The majority of the party remained with Arias, renaming itself the Authentic Panameñista Party.

In 1984, the 83-year old Arias ran once more for president. When exit polls showed Arias with a substantial lead, the government, now controlled by Manuel Noriega, halted the count. It brazenly manipulated the results and declared that its candidate, Nicolás Ardito Barletta, had won by only 1,713 votes. Independent observers estimated that Arias would have won in a landslide had the election been conducted in a fair manner. As a result, Barletta was nicknamed fraudito (little fraud), in reference to his second name Ardito. Arias fled once again to Florida.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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