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The Most Famous

POLITICIANS from Panama

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This page contains a list of the greatest Panamanian Politicians. The pantheon dataset contains 15,577 Politicians, 20 of which were born in Panama. This makes Panama the birth place of the 103rd most number of Politicians behind Costa Rica and Honduras.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Panamanian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Panamanian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Panamanian Politicians.

Photo of John McCain

1. John McCain (1936 - 2018)

With an HPI of 68.89, John McCain is the most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 105 different languages on wikipedia.

John Sidney McCain III (August 29, 1936 – August 25, 2018) was an American politician and United States Navy officer who served as a United States senator from Arizona from 1987 until his death in 2018. He previously served two terms in the United States House of Representatives and was the Republican nominee for president of the United States in the 2008 election, which he lost to Barack Obama. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958 and received a commission in the United States Navy. He became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, McCain almost died in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. While on a bombing mission during Operation Rolling Thunder over Hanoi in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. McCain was a prisoner of war until 1973. He experienced episodes of torture and refused an out-of-sequence early release. During the war, McCain sustained wounds that left him with lifelong physical disabilities. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona. In 1982, McCain was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, succeeding the 1964 Republican presidential nominee and conservative icon Barry Goldwater upon his retirement. McCain easily won reelection five times. While generally adhering to conservative principles, McCain also gained a reputation as a "maverick" for his willingness to break from his party on certain issues, including LGBT rights, gun regulations, and campaign finance reform where his stances were more moderate than those of the party's base. McCain was investigated and largely exonerated in a political influence scandal of the 1980s as one of the Keating Five; he then made regulating the financing of political campaigns one of his signature concerns, which eventually resulted in passage of the McCain–Feingold Act in 2002. He was also known for his work in the 1990s to restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam. McCain chaired the Senate Commerce Committee from 1997 to 2001 and 2003 to 2005, where he opposed pork barrel spending and earmarks. He belonged to the bipartisan "Gang of 14", which played a key role in alleviating a crisis over judicial nominations. McCain entered the race for the Republican nomination for president in 2000 but lost a heated primary season contest to Governor George W. Bush of Texas. He secured the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, beating fellow candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, though he lost the general election to Barack Obama. McCain subsequently adopted more orthodox conservative stances and attitudes and largely opposed actions of the Obama administration, especially with regard to foreign policy matters. In 2015, he became Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He refused to support then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in 2016; McCain won re-election to a sixth and final term that same year. McCain was a vocal critic of the Trump administration. While McCain opposed the Obama-era Affordable Care Act (ACA), he cast the deciding vote against the ACA-repealing American Health Care Act of 2017. After being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017, he reduced his role in the Senate in order to focus on treatment. He died in 2018 aged 81. Following his death, McCain lay in state in the Arizona State Capitol rotunda and then in the United States Capitol rotunda. His funeral was televised from the Washington National Cathedral, with the former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama giving eulogies. In 2022, President Joe Biden awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.

Photo of Manuel Noriega

2. Manuel Noriega (1934 - 2017)

With an HPI of 67.11, Manuel Noriega is the 2nd most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.

Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno (Spanish pronunciation: [maˈnwel noˈɾjeɣa]; February 11, 1934 – May 29, 2017) was a Panamanian dictator, politician and military officer who was the de facto ruler of Panama from 1983 to 1989. An authoritarian ruler who amassed a personal fortune through drug trafficking operations, he had long standing ties to United States intelligence agencies before the U.S. invasion of Panama removed him from power. Born in Panama City to a poor pardo family, Noriega studied at the Chorrillos Military School in Lima and at the School of the Americas. He became an officer in the Panamanian army, and rose through the ranks in alliance with Omar Torrijos. In 1968, Torrijos overthrew President Arnulfo Arias in a coup. Noriega became chief of military intelligence in Torrijos's government, and after Torrijos's death in 1981, consolidated power to become Panama's de facto ruler in 1983. Beginning in the 1950s, Noriega worked with U.S. intelligence agencies, and became one of the Central Intelligence Agency's most valued intelligence sources. He also served as a conduit for illicit weapons, military equipment, and cash destined for U.S.-backed forces throughout Latin America. Noriega's relationship with the U.S. deteriorated in the late 1980s after his relationship with intelligence agencies in other countries came to light, and his involvement in drug trafficking was investigated further. In 1988, Noriega was indicted by federal grand juries in Miami and Tampa on charges of racketeering, drug smuggling, and money laundering. The U.S. launched an invasion of Panama following failed negotiations seeking his resignation, and Noriega's annulment of the 1989 Panamanian general election. Noriega was captured and flown to the U.S., where he was tried on the Miami indictment, convicted on most of the charges, and sentenced to 40 years in prison, ultimately serving 17 years after a reduction in his sentence for good behavior. Noriega was extradited to France in 2010, where he was convicted and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for money laundering. In 2011 France extradited him to Panama, where he was incarcerated for crimes committed during his rule, for which he had been tried and convicted in absentia in the 1990s. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in March 2017, Noriega suffered complications during surgery, and died two months later. Noriega's authoritarian rule in Panama has been described as a dictatorship, and was marked by repression of the media, an expansion of the military, and the persecution of political opponents, effectively controlling the outcomes of any elections. He relied upon military nationalism to maintain his support, and did not espouse a specific social or economic ideology. Noriega was known for his complicated relationship with the U.S., being described as being its ally and nemesis simultaneously. He has been called one of the best-known dictators of his time, and compared to authoritarian rulers such as Muammar Gaddafi and Augusto Pinochet.

Photo of Omar Torrijos

3. Omar Torrijos (1929 - 1981)

With an HPI of 59.99, Omar Torrijos is the 3rd most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera (February 13, 1929 – July 31, 1981) was the Commander of the Panamanian National Guard and military leader of Panama from 1968 to his death in 1981. Torrijos was never officially the president of Panama, but instead held titles including "Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution". Torrijos took power in a coup d'état and instituted a number of social reforms. Torrijos is best known for negotiating the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties that eventually gave Panama full sovereignty over the Panama Canal. The two treaties guaranteed that Panama would gain control of the Panama Canal after 1999, ending the control of the canal that the U.S. had exercised since 1903. On December 31, 1999, the final phase of the treaty, the US relinquished control of the Panama Canal and all areas in what had been the Panama Canal Zone. His son Martín Torrijos was elected president and served from 2004 to 2009.

Photo of Guillermo Endara

4. Guillermo Endara (1936 - 2009)

With an HPI of 52.85, Guillermo Endara is the 4th most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Guillermo David Endara Galimany (May 12, 1936 – September 28, 2009) was a Panamanian politician who served as the President of Panama from 1989 to 1994. Raised in a family allied to Panameñista Party founder Arnulfo Arias, Endara attended school in exile in the United States and Argentina following Arias's removal from power. Endara later received a law degree in Panama. He subsequently served as a member of Panama's National Assembly, and briefly as a government minister before heading into exile again following Arias' third overthrow. After Arias' death in 1988, Endara became a leading opponent of the Manuel Noriega military dictatorship, heading the opposition coalition in the 1989 presidential election. Though his coalition was judged by international observers as having defeated pro-Noriega candidate Carlos Duque, the results were annulled by the government, and Endara and his running mates were attacked in the streets by the paramilitary Dignity Battalions. The assaults received widespread coverage in international media, helping to build support within the U.S. for military action against Noriega. Seven months later, the United States invaded Panama. Endara was sworn in as the new president on the first night of the invasion on a U.S. military base. During his presidency, Endara abolished the Panamanian military and replaced it with a national police force. Endara's term saw steady economic growth and a return of democratic institutions, but also high unemployment rates. His administration was marked by internal fighting, and his popularity plummeted. He was succeeded by opposition candidate Ernesto Pérez Balladares on September 1, 1994. Endara ran for office again in 2004 and 2009, but lost to Democratic Revolutionary Party candidate Martín Torrijos and to independent candidate Ricardo Martinelli. He died of a heart attack on September 28, 2009, several months after his last campaign.

Photo of Laurentino Cortizo

5. Laurentino Cortizo (1953 - )

With an HPI of 52.41, Laurentino Cortizo is the 5th most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Laurentino "Nito" Cortizo Cohen (Spanish pronunciation: [lawɾenˈtino koɾˈtiso ˈko.en]; born 30 January 1953) is a Panamanian politician who has served as the President of Panama since 2019. Cortizo is the former President of the National Assembly and Minister of Agricultural and Livestock Development. He was also a member of the National Assembly between 1994 and 2004, serving a year as chamber president.A member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, he was elected as president on in the 2019 general election, winning 33.27% of the vote. He took office on 1 July 2019.

Photo of Ricardo Martinelli

6. Ricardo Martinelli (1952 - )

With an HPI of 51.64, Ricardo Martinelli is the 6th most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.

Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal (born March 11, 1952) is a Panamanian politician and businessman who was the 36th president of Panama from 2009 to 2014.

Photo of Mireya Moscoso

7. Mireya Moscoso (1946 - )

With an HPI of 51.09, Mireya Moscoso is the 7th most famous Panamanian Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 34 different languages.

Mireya Elisa Moscoso Rodríguez de Arias (born July 1, 1946) is a Panamanian politician who served as the President of Panama from 1999 to 2004. She is the country's first female president. Born into a rural family, Moscoso became active in the 1968 presidential campaign of three-time president Arnulfo Arias, following and marrying him when he went into exile after a military coup. After his death in 1988, she assumed control of his coffee business and later his political party, the Arnulfista Party (PA). During the 1994 general elections for the presidency, she narrowly lost to the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) candidate Ernesto Pérez Balladares by 4% of the vote. In the 1999 general election, she defeated the PRD candidate Martín Torrijos by 8% to become Panama's first female president. During her tenure in office, she presided over the handover of the Panama Canal from the US to Panama and the economic downturn that resulted from the loss of US personnel. Hobbled by new spending restrictions passed by the opposition-controlled Legislative Assembly, and her administration's corruption scandals, she had difficulty passing her legislative initiatives. Her popularity declined, and her party's candidate José Miguel Alemán lost to the PRD's Torrijos in the subsequent general elections to succeed her.

Photo of Ricardo Maduro

8. Ricardo Maduro (1946 - )

With an HPI of 48.83, Ricardo Maduro is the 8th most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Ricardo Rodolfo Maduro Joest (born 20 April 1946 in Panama) is a Honduran politician who served as President of Honduras from 2002 to 2006. A member of the National Party, Maduro was previously chairman of the Central Bank of Honduras. He graduated from The Lawrenceville School (where he was awarded the Lawrenceville Medal, Lawrenceville's highest award to alumni) and later Stanford University. Maduro is a member of the Levy-Maduro family whose roots go through Portugal, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles.

Photo of Juan Carlos Varela

9. Juan Carlos Varela (1963 - )

With an HPI of 47.92, Juan Carlos Varela is the 9th most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.

Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez (Spanish pronunciation: [xwaŋ ˈkaɾloz βaˈɾela roˈðɾiɣes]; born 13 December 1963) is a Panamanian businessman and former politician who served as the President of Panama from 2014 to 2019. Varela was Vice President of Panama from 2009 to 2014, and Minister of Foreign Relations from July 2009 to August 2011. He was President of the Panameñistas, the third-largest political party in Panama, from 2006 to 2016. Varela won the 2014 presidential election with over 39% of the votes, against the Cambio Democrático Party, led by his former political partner Ricardo Martinelli, whose candidate was José Domingo Arias. He was sworn in as president on 1 July 2014.

Photo of Martín Torrijos

10. Martín Torrijos (1963 - )

With an HPI of 46.66, Martín Torrijos is the 10th most famous Panamanian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.

Martín Erasto Torrijos Espino (Spanish pronunciation: [maɾˈtin toˈrixos]; born July 18, 1963) is a Panamanian politician who was President of Panama from 2004 to 2009. He was fathered out of wedlock by Panamanian military ruler Omar Torrijos, the de facto head of Panama from 1968 to 1981. Martín Torrijos was educated in economics and political science in the United States. He then returned to Panama, becoming active in the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). He was the party's presidential candidate in the 1999 general election, losing to Arnulfista Party candidate Mireya Moscoso. In the 2004 presidential election, he ran again as the PRD candidate. This time, his primary rival was Solidarity Party candidate Guillermo Endara, whom Torrijos defeated 47% to 31%. Torrijos reformed social security and pensions during his term in office, as well as proposing and passing a $5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. Torrijos was succeeded by supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli in 2009. He is a member of the Inter-American Dialogue.

Pantheon has 20 people classified as politicians born between 1836 and 1963. Of these 20, 10 (50.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Laurentino Cortizo, Ricardo Martinelli, and Mireya Moscoso. The most famous deceased politicians include John McCain, Manuel Noriega, and Omar Torrijos. As of April 2022, 5 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Nicolás Ardito Barletta Vallarino, Harmodio Arias Madrid, and Ricardo J. Alfaro.

Living Politicians

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Deceased Politicians

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Newly Added Politicians (2022)

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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 10 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.