Arias Calderón, Ricardo (1933–)

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Arias Calderón, Ricardo (1933–)

Panamanian philosopher and intellectual and former leader of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) known for his honesty and personal integrity. Ricardo Arias Calderón has a B.A. from Yale University and a doctorate from the University of Paris. He has taught at universities in Panama, Venezuela, and Chile. In the United States he taught at Florida International University from 1972 to 1978. He is considered one of Panama's leading intellectuals, author of many books and articles dealing with philosophical and current political issues. He was forced into exile by the military dictatorship from 1969 to 1978. He joined the PDC in 1964 and was its president from 1980 to 1993. (In 2001 the PDC changed its name to the Partido Popular, or Popular Party [PP]). Arias Calderón was also the president of the Christian Democratic Organization of the Americas from 1981 to 1985 and twice president of the Christian Democratic International (1995–1998; May-October 2000).

In the 1980s, Arias Calderón became one of the leading opponents of the dictator General Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno (1983–1989). In 1984, he ran for second vice-president on a ticket headed by Arnulfo Arias Madrid in a coalition with the latter's Authentic Panameñista Party (PPA). With the death of Arias Madrid in 1988, the opposition to Noriega was thrown into chaos. In 1989, in preparation for the May elections, the Christian Democrats joined with the majority faction of the Panameñistas, headed by Guillermo Endara Paniza, and other political parties to form a broad anti-Noriega coalition called CivicADO (Democratic Alliance of Civil Opposition). With Endara heading the ticket, Arias Calderón ran for first vice president, with Guillermo Ford (a businessman representing MOLIRENA, a coalition traditional liberal parties associated with the oligarchy), as second vice president.

The Noriega government claimed victory in the elections, but the opposition's count as well as that of independent observers, such as, former U.S. president jimmy Carter, indicated just the opposite. The government later annulled the results. During a demonstration against Noriega's rule, Arias Calderón and Ford were beaten by the dictator's "dignity battalions." CivicADO took over the government after the 1989 U.S. invasion. During his tenure as vice president and minister of justice, Arias Calderón, initiated the process of demilitarization of Panamanian politics and demobilization of the armed forces, which culminated in the 1994 constitutional amendment that abolished the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF). In its place a new Public Force (FP) was created under the direct control of the Ministry of Justice. Later Arias Calderón purged the new FP of officers who had close associations with the Noriega regime. On 17 December 1992, Arias resigned from his post under pressure from his own party because of disagreements with the Endara administration (the PDC had already pulled out other members from the coalition in April 1991).

Despite battling Parkinson's disease, Arias Calderón remained active in the early twenty-first century, serving as Panama's ambassador to the United Nations. In 2004, the government of Panama awarded him with the Order Basque Nunez de Balboa, in the rank of Grand Cross.

See alsoPanama .


Panama: A Country Report (1989); Andrew Zimbalist and John Weeks, Panama at the Crossroads: Economic Development and Political Change in the Twentieth Century (1991); Eva Loser, ed., Conflict Resolution and Democratization in Panama: Implications for U.S. Policy (1992); Mark Falcoff and Richard L. Millet, Searching for Panama: The U.S.-Panama Relationship and Democratization (1993); Tom Barry, et al., Inside Panama (1995); Orlando J. Pérez, Post-invasion Panama: The Challenges of Democratization in the New World Order (2000); Ricardo Arias Calderón, Democracia sin ejército: La experiencia de Panamá (2001).

Additional Bibliography

Hernández, Roberto. Cuatro ensayos de bioética: Aborto, eutanasia, reproducción asistida, colonación humana con tres comentarios críticos del Dr. Ricardo Arias Calderón. Panamá: Litho Editorial Chen, 2002.

                                Juan Manuel PÉrez