History 5 minute read

Mario J. Galindo H. – In the footsteps of history

Writing history is a mission that has sustained our civilization for centuries. Exploring the reasons that triggered key events that […]

Writing history is a mission that has sustained our civilization for centuries. Exploring the reasons that triggered key events that change paradigms and our perception of the world is what allows us to learn and grow as individuals and as a society.

This is a task that Mario J. Galindo H. took seriously when he compiled, in one work, the more than one hundred years of history of our Canal, with the processes that so intrinsically unite them to the birth of our country.

Galindo is a graduate of Georgetown University (United States), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences (Cum Laude) in 1956; he completed his law degree at the University of Puerto Rico (Magna Cum Laude) in 1960, and completed a master’s degree in law at Tulane University in 1962.

In addition, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority, and has served as Minister of Finance and Treasury, as well as member of the Committee for the Revision of Amendments to the Political Constitution of the Republic of Panama.

He is also the author of multiple works focused on the historical processes of our nation, among which stand out: “Libre examen de la gestión negociadora” (1975), “Nuestra separación de Colombia. Las dos leyendas y la disyuntiva” (2002) and “Reflexiones y atisbos sobre la democracia panameña en la actualidad” (2013).

His most recent book, “The Canal in Panamanian Hands: A Success Story” (Editora Novo Art, S.A. First edition 2022) contains a series of essays, analyses and articles of his authorship, covering the most crucial aspects of our history and the Canal, seen from the perspective of someone who took part in many of these historical moments.

A perpetual infamy

The book begins with the forcefulness of a thunderclap: How was the perpetuity clause incorporated into the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty? Here, the author explains how that treaty was not the result of a negotiation on equal terms, but a “tolerated imposition”. The Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty was signed by the newly independent Republic of Panama and the United States on November 18, 1903.

This treaty left our country under the protection of the United States, and granted in perpetuity the strip of land where military bases would be installed and a Canal with locks would be built.

In his meticulous analysis, Mario Galindo warns that John Milton Hay and Philippe Bunau-Varilla “dedicated themselves in the most impudent and shameless manner” to worsen the terms of the previous treaty (Herran-Hay) signed between Colombia and the United States, by including an unprecedented article at the international level such as perpetuity.

In the author’s opinion, it was that infamous imposition of perpetuity that served as fuel for subsequent nationalist movements, which during the 20th century, claimed and obtained not only the sovereignty of our country, but also the administration of the inter-oceanic waterway.

A negotiation to assume our destiny

From the second chapter onwards, Galindo enters a decisive period in our history, which he witnessed as a professor of commercial law at the Universidad Santa María La Antigua (1967-1978), where he closely followed the development of the negotiations of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, which would transfer the Canal to Panama in 1999.

Galindo examines the negotiation process and the keys that allowed Panama, at that time, to reach an agreement with the United States that repealed the ill-fated Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty and transferred the territories under U.S. jurisdiction to Panama, as well as its administration.

But the search for success could not overlook one of the most dramatic episodes of our recent history: the invasion of December 20, 1989, which ended with the fall of the military government and the reinstatement of democracy.

This moment gives the author the opportunity to delve, through his essays, into that period of Guillermo Endara’s presidency, during which he was Minister of Finance and Treasury (1989-1993). He was in charge, together with the comptroller Rubén Darío Carles and the second vice-president of the Republic, Guillermo Ford, of restructuring and implementing the government’s economic policy.

The right steps

In his book, Mario Galindo describes the correct steps taken by the country through the administrations of Guillermo Endara and Ernesto Pérez Balladares. A series of profound dialogues gave life to the Constitutional Title and the Organic Law, the prelude to success. The first test was the imperceptible transfer of the Canal into Panamanian hands on December 31, 1999.

At this point, it also highlights the Canal expansion process, the bidding process for the Third Set of Locks, and the challenges faced by the expansion, which surpassed its first five years, breaking records and bringing new benefits to the country.

“The Canal in Panamanian Hands: A Success Story” is exactly that; the first-person account of someone who was there at every stage of the process that created the Panama Canal Authority, and subsequently saw how Panamanians took the reins of our destiny with the expansion of the inter-oceanic waterway.

The work of Mario J. Galindo H. is thus a reference of the modern history of our Canal and our country.

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