Arnulfo Arias Biography

Arnulfo Arias Madrid (Penonomé, Department of Panama [when it belonged to the Republic of Colombia] August 15, 1901 – Miami, United States, August 10, 1988).

Medic, Diplomat and Panamanian political leader, who went on to occupy three times the presidency of his country, unable to complete any of the three terms for which he was elected, which were truncated by coups. Having run for election five times, being overthrown in three moments and strongly opposing military regimes, Arias eventually became a symbol of democracy in his country.

Early life

Arnulfo Arias Madrid was born on August 15, 1901, in the town of Penonomé, Department of Panama, when it belonged to Colombia, thus becoming the son of Antonio Arias and Carmen Madrid, one of the most important landowners of the bourgeoisie Panamanian. Arias attended primary school, in Penonomé, at the school of the French Christian Brothers. He later moved to the United States, where he attended high school in New York.

He then entered the prestigious University of Chicago, as well as Harvard, from where he graduated with a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery with honors, becoming also the first Panamanian citizen to obtain such academic recognitions in the United States.

Political Beginnings

In 1925, at the age of twenty-four, he returned to his native Panama, at which time he also dabbled in politics, leading the nationalist organization Acción Comunal, as well as the coup against President Florencio Harmodio Arosemena, which took place on 2 January 1931.

After overthrowing this liberal president, the Organization led by Arias succeeded in elevating Ricardo J. Alfaro to the presidency. After a year, Arias supported and helped his brother Harmodio Arias Madrid to take over the Presidency of Panama, where he would remain for four years, between 1932 and 1936.

Endowed with the title of President, Harmodio placed several responsibilities on his brother Arnulfo, who during his tenure became the head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Public Works. In 1936, his brother was relieved by Juan Demóstenes Arosemena, which did not mean Arias’ estrangement from politics.

On the contrary, he began a new phase that would lead him to practice Diplomacy, being appointed Extraordinary Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary to Germany, England, France, Sweden and Denmark. He was also appointed as a Delegate to the League of Nations.

First Presidency (1940-1941)

After his diplomatic duties, he returned to Panama in 1940, the year in which he participated as a candidate in the presidential elections, being elected President of Panama, by a wide margin. During his tenure he implemented his Panamanian Doctrine, through which he oriented his mandate towards nationalism, opposing all forms of foreign interference, especially that of the United States.

Likewise, in 1941 a new Constitution was enacted, also during its first term the Agricultural and Industrial Bank was founded, the Social Security Fund was created, the family wealth was authorized, the women’s vote was authorized, a Central Bank was created and it was issued paper money.

Over time, and as World War II progressed, tensions between the Arias government and the United States escalated, in the face of the Panamanian President’s refusal not to yield to his demands. Finally, in 1941, while Arnulfo Arias was in Havana, Cuba, he was the victim of a coup d’état, which obeistified him from the presidency, placing Ricardo Adolfo de la Guardia.

In the midst of the political crisis, which led to the National Constituent Assembly that repealed most of the precepts of the 1941 Constitution, Arnulfo Arias decided to remain in exile.

Second Presidency (1949-1951)

Seven years later, in 1948, he returned to Panama, where he ran again for the presidency by the Revolutionary Party, which he lost to Domingo Díaz Arosemena. Soon, however, President Díaz Arosemena died, being replaced by Vice President Daniel Chanis Pinzón, who was unable to retain power in the face of military pressure.

Determined to wrest power from him, Colonel José Antonio Remón Cantera decided to open the polls for the recent 1948 election, discovering that the real winner is Arnulfo Arias.

Thus, on 24 November 1949 Arias assumed for the second time the Presidency, however, in 1951, it was dismissed again, following a wave of popular unrest, supported by the National Guard. This time he was prosecuted, convicted and for life disqualified from exercising political rights.

Third Presidency (1968)

Nearly a decade later, in 1960, his political rights were restored by President Roberto F. Chiari, who also allowed him to legalize his party. In 1964 he ran again as a candidate, although he lost.

Four years later, in the 1968 elections, he ran again, being elected president for the third time. However, on October 11, 1968, just eleven days after taking office he was overthrown by a coup, led by the middle command of the National Guard, inwhich Major Boris Martinez and Lieutenant Colonels José H Ramos Bustamante and Omar participated Torrijos Herrera. As a result of this Arias is exiled in the United States.

Final years

In 1984, Arias returned to Panama to launch as a candidate in the presidential election, where he came on behalf of the Democratic Opposition Alliance ADO Civilist party, however again he was the victim of electoral fraud by the military, who did their best to hand over command to Nicolas Ardito Berletta.

Four years later, on August 10, 1988, Arnulfo Arias Madrid died at the age of eighty-seven, from natural causes, in Miami, United States. His remains rest in Penonomé, where they were taken twenty-two years after his death, during a state tribute in 2012.

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Arnulfo Arias Biography
Source: Education  
August 14, 2019

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