More than 100,000 people joined a mass demonstration in support for Panama's ruler General Omar Torrijos in a city centre square on Monday (11 October).
More than 100,000 people joined a mass demonstration in support for Panama's ruler General Omar Torrijos in a city centre square on Monday (11 October). The rally marked the third anniversary of General Torrijos' regime which came to power in 1968. The rally also expressed support for General Torrijos in his dealings with United States over control of the Panama Canal. Talks are currently in process in Washington regarding control of the 10-mile wide (16 kms) zone which the United states has administered since 1903. Panama wants total control of the Canal Zone.
SYNOPSIS: The Panama Canal is currently the subject of intense treaty talks between Panama, who wants total control of the ten-mile-wide Canal Zone, and the United States, who has administered it since 1903. The Washington talks weren't far from people's minds when more than 100,000 attended a rally in Panama City on Monday to mark the third anniversary of General Omar Torrijos' regime. General Torrijos came to power after a coup in 1968.
Dancing to sidewalk bands was actively encouraged to take some of the heat from the rally. With thousands of Americans living in the Zone, the government wanted at all costs to avoid a repetition of the 1964 anti-American riots. Those riots left 21 Panamanians and four Americans dead.
General Torrijos warned in his speech that Panama was running out of patience with the United States. But he also attacked leftwingers who, as he put it, were trying to turn Panama into another Vietnam. The General appealed to the United States Government to show that it was a real government of liberty.
It was believed from the General's speech that he was hoping the United States would agree to a new agreement on canal Zone control which would give Panamanians more say. General Torrijos announced he intended to order a new constitution for his country. He said an assembly would be formed to decide before mid-1972 what kind of government Panama should have. The threat of violence had hung over the rally before it took place and observers feared trouble would spill over into the Zone - only blocks from the square. But in the event, violence never materialised.