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DR. HARMODIO ARIAS
Harmodio Arias, considered one of the greatest Panamanian statesmen, was born on July 3, 1886 in Rio Grande, Province of Cocle, in the Republic of Panama, which at the time was a Department of Colombia. His first studies were carried cut in the town of Penonome and afterwards at Colegio del Istmo in Panama City. Shortly after Panama's independence from Colombia in 1903, Harmodio Arias, then only eighteen years old, was granted one of the twenty-four scholarships which were granted by the National Constitutional Convention to send young Panamanians to study overseas. Towards the end of 1904 he left Panama for England.
In the same year he entered University School at Southport, on the northwest of England, for preparatory studies. In 1906 he entered St. John's College, Cambridge University, to study Law and Political Science, where in 1909 was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Laws, aving in 1907 obtained and honours scholarship. In 1911, after two year's study at London University, he obtained the degree of Doctor of Law. His doctoral thesis, “The Panama Canal, a Study in International Law and American Diplomacy”, originally written and published in English, was afterwards translated into Spanish.
He returned to Panama on February 1912, and from March to August of thar year acted as Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and in 1914 established the law from of Fabrega & Arias. On August 12, 1916 he was married to the former Rosario Guardia, and from the marriage were born five children, Harmodio, Roberto, Rosario del Carmen, Gilberto and Antonio, who were to become persons of importance in the national social and economic life.
Before becoming President of Panama in 1932, he had already held various public offices, such as Member of the Codification Commission of the Republic of Panama, Professor or Roman Law in the National Law School of Panama, Delegate of the First Assembly of the League of Nations, Minister Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of Panama in Argentina: Member of the Advisory Comission of the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Panama, Deputy for the Province of Panama at the National Assembly, representative of Uruguay at the Bolivarian Congress of 1926 and vice-chairman of the congress, Secretary of Government and Justice, and acting head of the Executive Power from February 2 to February 15, 1931; Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to the United States from 1931 to 1932.
One june 5, 1932 he was elected President of the Republic of Panama for the period 1932-1936. He took office on Octuber 1, when the country faced difficult problems caused by the depression in the world economy. As President he took strong measures to overcome the fiscal crisis, such as Law II, known as the Iron Law, which gradually brought order to the public finances. Among the main achievements of his administration were that foundation of the National
University of Panama in 1935 and the Treaty of Frienship and Cooperation with the United States of America, which, by eliminating the right of the United States to intervene in Panama, brought about the true independence of the country, a position which subsisted until 1977 when the Treaty of Neutrality with the United States again granted the right to the United States.
At the end of his presidencial mandate, he returned to his legal practice in which he had attained and international reputation, and discreetly retired from party politics. From that time, he became also deeply committed to his great passion for journalism form the pages of the newspaper. “El Panama America" of which he became publisher when he acquired it in 1938. From the newspaper, Dr. Arias opposed the Filos-Hines Draft Treaty on American bases in the Panama Canal Zone, which was eventually rejected. He was on the organizers and founders of the Inter-American Press Association, and made El Panama America into a leading medium for the guidance of public opinion.
He also became actively and successfully involved in agriculture and ranching. During the fifties he acted as Consellor for the Remon-Eisenhower Treaty.
He received several awards and honorary appointments, such as Member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Member of the American Institute of International Law. Member of the Bolivarian Association of Panama, Member of the Panama Academy of International Law. Member of the Academies of History of Argentina and Venezuela and Member of the Panama Academy of Language, as well as important national and foreign decorations.
Among his most important published works are “Algo Sobre Soberania Territorial”, “Tendencias Democraticas”, Influencia Extranjera en la Cultura Nacional”, “El
“ Patriotismo en Relación con la Enseñanza", "La Política Internacional de Bolívar”, “Relaciones entre Panamá y los Estados Unidos”, “Estudios Sobre la Soberanía de Panamá en la zona del Canal”, “Sobre Soberanía Nacional”, “Sobre Interpretación del Convenio de 1942”.
He died on December 23, 1962 on board an airplane while returning to Panama from the United States.