Panama‘s President Juan Carlos Varela addressed the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York during the weekend, committing Panama to a neutral foreign policy.
“We reaffirm our dedication to dialogue, as a country willing to fulfill that responsibility to unite the Americas and the world, in the framework of the United Nations and at every opportunity presented to us to be mediators of the differences that keep us facing the new challenges of the global stage,” said the president.
Panama abolished its military in 1990, after the U.S. invasion and overthrow of military dictator Manuel Noriega. In 1994, the country’s legislative assembly passed a constitutional amendment that banned the creation of a standing army. Instead, the Panamanian Public Forces are tasked with law enforcement and are able to perform limited military actions in the case of external aggression.
Panama and bordering Costa Rica are the only two countries in Central America without armies.
The Panamanian president was sure to reaffirm his government’s strong support of U.S. military action against ISIS. In an interview with Forbes, Varela noted that his government was one of the first to support the U.S.-led coalition.
In the same interview, he went on to note that his government supports the inclusion of Cuba during the next Organization of the Americas Summit. He said, “I feel that as the U.S. has a large Hispanic population, the right thing to do would be to attend. I think it would be a good opportunity to find common ways to put us together and put aside conflict.” Panama hosts the next summit and has extended an invitation to Cuba to attend the summit, displeasing the U.S. government. The United States has held a trade embargo on Cuba for more than 50 years.
The president also sought to mark a clear contrast from the previous government’s foreign policy, telling Forbes, “We have relations with Venezuela and Cuba. The past government had some issues with Venezuela. We reestablished relations with Venezuela on July 1, my first day in office. If we have the Canal and want to be a mediator, we can’t be part of conflicts.”
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