Famous Panamanian Leaders

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Panama is a country located in Central America. Occupied by the Spanish, Panama broke free from the Spanish settlement in the 19th century but became a part of the union of the Nueva Granada, Ecuador, Venezuela and Republic of Gran Columbia. It was in 1903 that Panama finally separated from Columbia and declared its independence as a nation. Today the country is the fastest growing economy in Central America with a largest per capita consumer. Also, it ranks fifth in the Human Development Index in Latin American countries. Much of that has been due to its efficient and highly talented group of leaders who have led the country to the top. The Republic of Panama, similar to other American countries, follows a presidential representative democratic republic according to which the President of Panama is both the head of the state and the government. Manuel Amador Guerrero was the first President of Panama. Before taking up the coveted position, he played an instrumental role in the independence movement of Panama in 1903. Mireya Moscoso was the first female President of Panama. She was the wife of three-time Panama President Arnulfo Arias and played a crucial role in the handover of the Panama Canal from US to Panama. Juan Carlos Varela is the incumbent President of Panama. With this section, find out more about famous Panamanian leaders.
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 1 
Omar Torrijos
(Elected official)
Omar Torrijos
3
Birthdate: February 13, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Santiago, Panama
Died: July 31, 1981
Omar Torrijos was a Panamanian political leader who served as the de facto leader of Panama from 1968 to 1981. Although he was never officially elected as the president of Panama, Torrijos held titles, such as Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution. One of the most influential Panamanian personalities during his generation, Omar Torrijos introduced many social reforms in Panama.
 2 
Manuel Noriega
(Former Panamanian Dictator)
Manuel Noriega
10
Birthdate: February 11, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Panama City
Died: May 29, 2017

Panamanian politician and military officer, Manuel Noriega, was the de facto ruler of Panama from 1983 to 1989. As an army man, he overthrew President Arnulfo Arias in a coup in 1968 and became the de facto ruler of Panama a few years later. He was a controversial leader and his rule has been described as a dictatorship.

 3 
Ramon Fonseca Mora
(Panamanian Novelist, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Former Law Firm ‘Mossack Fonseca’)
Ramon Fonseca Mora
3
Birthdate: July 14, 1952
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama

Panamanian novelist and lawyer Ramón Fonseca Mora served as minister-counselor of Juan Carlos Varela, and as president of Panameñista Party till he was fired in 2016, because of Operation Car Wash. The Panama Papers resulted from hack of computer-systems of the Mossack Fonseca law firm that he co-founded with Jürgen Mossack. Both of them were arrested, jailed and later released.     

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 4 
Juan Carlos Varela
(The 37th President of Panama)
Juan Carlos Varela
3
Birthdate: December 12, 1963
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Panama City

Panamanian businessman and former politician Juan Carlos Varela held-office as Minister of Foreign Relations and Vice President of Panama before serving as 37th President of Panama (2014-19). He also served as President of Panameñista Party. He was charged for money-laundering in the Odebrecht case, and is one of the former heads of state whose name is mentioned in Pandora Papers.

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 5 
Guillermo Endara
(President of Panama)
Guillermo Endara
2
Birthdate: May 12, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Panama City
Died: September 28, 2009

Guillermo Endara was the president of Panama from 1989 to 1994. A lawyer by qualification, he has served as a member of Panama's National Assembly in the past. As the president, he abolished the Panamanian military, replacing it with a national police force. While his tenure saw steady economic growth, it was also marred by internal fighting. 

 6 
Ricardo Martinelli
(Former President of Panama)
Ricardo Martinelli
2
Birthdate: March 11, 1952
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Panama City

Ricardo Martinelli is a Panamanian businessman and politician.From 2009 to 2014, he served as the president of Panama and his presidency witnessed steady economic growth in the country. Martinelli came up with several measures to decrease poverty. He increased the minimum wage and introduced measures to tackle unemployment.

 7 
Mireya Moscoso
(Former President of Panama (1999 - 2004))
Mireya Moscoso
3
Birthdate: July 1, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pedasi, Panama

Mireya Moscoso is a Panamanian politician who became the first female president of Panama in 1999. Previously married to three-time president Arnulfo Arias, she assumed control of his political party, the Arnulfista Party (PA), after his death. Her tenure as the president was marred by corruption scandals, and she was succeeded by Martín Torrijos in 2004. 

 8 
Isabel Saint Malo
(First Woman Who Served as Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Panama)
Isabel Saint Malo
2
Birthdate: June 27, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama

Politician and diplomat Isabel de Saint Malo is the first woman in Panamanian history who served as Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama. She held office under President Juan Carlos Varela from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2019. She advocates for several social-issues including eradicating poverty and social inequality and drove policies centred on such issues.

 9 
Martín Torrijos
(Politician)
Martín Torrijos
3
Birthdate: July 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chitré
Died: 1981 AD

Former Panamanian president Martín Torrijos was born out of an illegitimate relationship of military ruler Omar Torrijos and was disowned by his father till his teenage years. While studying in the U.S., he had also worked at McDonald's. His reforms include major changes in his country’s pensions and social security.

 10 
Arnulfo Arias
(Three-Time Panamanian President)
Arnulfo Arias
3
Birthdate: August 15, 1901
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Penonomé, Panama
Died: August 10, 1988

Three-time president of Panama, Arnulfo Arias was a member of the nationalist Panameñista Party and also a doctor. The younger brother of another Panamanian president, Harmodio Arias, Arnulfo became dictatorial during his 2nd presidential term, dissolved the National Assembly, and changed the constitution. He was deposed thrice.

 11 
Lorena Castillo
(Award-Winning Journalist and Former First Lady of Panama)
Lorena Castillo
1
Birthdate: July 31, 1968
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama

Former First Lady of Panama and the wife of former Panamanian president Juan Carlos Varela, Lorena Castillo has also had a 17-year stint as a journalist. She has also been a presenter and co-producer at Telemetro Reporta and has worked for UNAIDS and been associated with other humanitarian and social initiatives.

 12 
DJ Black
(Panamanian Rapper Who Later Became Panama's Minister of Culture)
DJ Black
0
Birthdate: July 2, 1972
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama

Better known as DJ Black and DJ Negro, Panamanian rapper, music producer, and songwriter Ricardo Alexander O’Neil Weeks soared to fame with his chartbusting and controversial track Chucha Su Madre. He also released other hits such as Vengo Caliente and Sinforoso. He was later made Panama’s minister of culture by President Ricardo Martinelli.

 13 
Zulay Rodríguez
(Panamanian Lawyer, Educator & Politician)
Zulay Rodríguez
0
Birthdate: June 20, 1969
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: San Miguelito, Panama

A lawyer and a former professor of human rights and criminal law at USMA, Zulay Rodríguez has also taught at the University of Panama and the ULACIT. She later stepped into politics with the Democratic Revolutionary Party and now serves as a deputy and the vice president of the National Assembly of Panama.

 14 
Manuel Solís Palma
(The Acting President of Panama during Manuel Noriega’s Reign)
Manuel Solís Palma
0
Birthdate: December 3, 1917
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Los Santos Province, Panama
Died: November 6, 2009

Former acting president of Panama, Manuel Solís Palma had also been his country’s education minister under a number of administrations. The Democratic Revolutionary Party member served as the president during military dictator Manuel Noriega’s reign but was later pardoned of any crimes committed during that period.

 15 
Balbina Herrera
(Panamanian Politician)
Balbina Herrera
0
Birthdate: November 24, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama

Panamanian politician and Democratic Revolutionary Party member Balbina Herrera started her political career as the mayor of San Miguelito and later also served as the president of the National Assembly. A 2009 presidential candidate, she lost her race for presidency to center-right candidate Ricardo Martinelli.

 16 
Rómulo Escobar Bethancourt
(Panamanian Criminal Lawyer-Turned-Politician)
Rómulo Escobar Bethancourt
1
Birthdate: September 5, 1927
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama
Died: September 28, 1995

Apart from being a criminal lawyer, Panamanian politician Rómulo Escobar Bethancourt was also a prominent member of the Communist Party of Panama and later co-founded the Democratic Revolutionary Party. He was one of the major figures behind the Torrijos–Carter Treaties which ratified Panama’s control over the Panama Canal.

 17 
Ana Matilde Gómez
(Panamanian Lawyer and Politician Who Is a Former National Assembly Member and Attorney General)
Ana Matilde Gómez
0
Birthdate: November 5, 1962
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Panama City, Panama

Panamanian lawyer and politician Ana Matilde Gómez has had a long career as a public and corporate lawyer. He has also taught at the Latin University of Panama. She has not only served as the attorney general of Panama but has also been a National Assembly member. She was a presidential candidate in 2019.