Panama: A Country of Resilience
In 2017, we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of PANAMUN, the largest and oldest Central American conference. This is not only a commemoration of 25 years of dedicated and hard working students and teachers, but a celebration of the country in which this conference is hosted. PANAMUN is a reflection of Panamanian history; it is a symbol of strength and resilience.
In 1989, the United States of America conducted an invasion of Panama in order to stabilize the threat that Manuel Antonio Noriega, the dictator of Panama at the time, posed to the United States. While the US successfully apprehended Noriega and brought him to justice for the crimes he committed related to drug trafficking and money laundering, the country was left in ruins. Thousands were hurt and homeless, and while a definite agreement on the casualty count was never reached, it is estimated that over 3,000 Panamanians were killed in the onslaught.
Many believed this country to be irreversibly damaged. In 1990, Guillermo Endara had been named the President of the country, yet his popularity quickly plummeted when his policies cut hundreds of jobs, exactly opposite of what the Panamanian economy needed at the time. The government was going through several changes during this time period, while the entire population was trying their best to rebuild after the pain and suffering that had been lived in the country.
In 1993, one of the only international schools in the country, The International School of Panama (ISP), hosted the very first MUN conference in Central America, PANAMUN. People had realized that what happened in Panama was due to a lack of democracy and abuse of power. PANAMUN was a way not only encourage that democratic spirit but also to create a new wave of world leaders who had lived through the 1989 invasion, and from it, learned to be smarter and stronger.
In Panama, big changes were happening. By 1999, the Panamanian military had been abolished, Mireya Moscoso was named the first female President of the country, and most importantly, the US had, after 85 years, given Panama full control of the Panama Canal, one of the most important shipping ways in the entire world.
It was an upwards climb from there. Panama had elevated their economy and global status, largely growing in population size. By 2004, the canal had earned a record annual revenue of one billion dollars.
Twenty-eight years after the US invasion of Panama, the country keeps growing. In June of 2016, the Panamanian government inaugurated the “Canal Ampliado”, or the enlargement of the Panama Canal. This was a historic moment for all Panamanians due to the fact that the Canal now has capacity for ships of a larger size, allowing for the Canal’s yearly revenue to be exponentially higher. Not only that, but in 2016 the population of Panama also reached four million inhabitants.
Twenty-five years after the beginning of PANAMUN, we have seen great changes. The amount of committees, international visiting schools, student leadership positions, and overall quality of debate has seen a great increase too. PANAMUN was a ray of light when this country needed it the most. Panama, and most of Latin America was going through a dark period in terms of their government and PANAMUN was an answer to that struggle. It allowed high school students who were part of that struggle too, to have their opinions and ideas heard. PANAMUN brought the idea of young students having a voice in the choices of their government closer to reality -- and it continues to do so every single year.