Panamanians remember their heroes in the struggle for sovereignty before the United States

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  • Thu, 01/10/2019 - 08:36
Panamanians remember their heroes in the struggle for sovereignty before the United States
  • @PresidenciaPma

Maritza Alabarca would turn 55 in 2019, but only lived 6 months and 18 days as a result of intoxication by tear gases launched on January 9, 1964 by US troops against the population that demanded respect to national sovereignty, that's why she is honored as a hero in Panama.

The Panamanian President, Juan Carlos Varela, this Wednesday led the tribute, for the tenth consecutive year, to the 21 compatriots, including Maritza, killed in the clashes that on January 9, 1964 broke out in Panama City and extended to the Atlantic city of Columbus, for demanding that the national flag be hoisted in the former Canal Zone.

Varela, president since 2014 and vice president between 2009 and 2014, recalled today before the monument to the fallen martyrs that he proposed to himself  "dignify" the anniversary that "changed the history" of Panama, forcing the United States to renounce the concept of "perpetuity" which it thought was its right over the Panama Canal.

Young students of the emblematic National Institute marched on the morning of that January 9 to the Balboa high school, to demand the flag of Panama be raised next to the American flag, as agreed by both governments, but that initiative was answered with violence by the American school students.

They were joined by the US police and military, which sparked a skirmish until January 12 and then-Panamanian President Roberto Chiari broke relations with the US.

Maritza, born in Colón on June 22, 1963, is the smallest of the 21 deaths -three from Colón-, the other 18 died in the Panamanian capital.

The first to fall was Ascanio Arosemena, a young man of 20-year-old of the Red Cross who helped to remove wounded from the fray and fell victim to a gunshot.

Historians say that since November 18, 1903, when the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty was signed, between the United States and the French Philipe Bunau Varilla on behalf of the Panamanians, the people rejected to the concept of perpetuity on the strip where the interoceanic canal was built.

That treaty "that no Panamanian signed", as stated by the general and dictator Omar Torrijos when he endorsed the document that replaced it with US President Jimmy Carter in 1977, was signed 15 days after the separation of Panama from Colombia was declared.

The service that the martyrs did to the homeland "must be remembered to see where we are from, where we are and where we are going", Varela told reporters after the tribute at the foot of the monument in their honor erected in the same place where there was the flagpole where the clashes broke out.

Those "men and women gave us the free and sovereign Panama we have today", said the president.

The date, which is a holiday for national mourning, was remembered by several survivors of the approximately 500 injured left by the clashes, unions, student organizations, political parties and relatives of the fallen, in separate events held at the University of Panama, the National Institute and the cemeteries where the heroes are buried.

On December 31, 1999, Panama received full control of the interoceanic canal and ended the colonial and military enclave that the United States had between 1904 and that date, thanks to the treaties signed by Torrijos and Carter in 1977, as a result of the struggle of 1964.


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