The arduous and controversial implementation of the Carter Torrijos Treaties that set up the turnover of the canal to Panama in 1999, interrupted by the 1989 U.S. invasion, took two decades and often seemed in jeopardy. Meanwhile, after the fall of General Noriega, civilian leaders reestablished democracy and began a tradition of free and honest elections that continues today. Once they took over the canal they transformed it into a major international hub for exchanges of ships, containers, people, resources, and information. Each election saw the opposition displace the incumbents and scramble to define a new Panama. Today the nation ranks high among its Latin neighbors for economic prowess, growth, and multiple connections to the outside world.
Michael L. Conniff, an emeritus professor of history at San José State University, earned degrees at UC Berkeley and Stanford and has published 10 books and many articles on modern history, most recently Modern Panama (2019, with Gene Bigler, also available as Panamá moderno) and A New History of Modern Latin America (2017, with Lawrence Clayton and Susan Gauss). He has lived overseas over a dozen years, held several post-docs (including three Fulbright tours), and served in the U.S. Peace Corps. He lectures often in Portuguese and Spanish. Before his current position, he taught history at the University of New Mexico and later created Latin American studies programs at Auburn University and the University of South Florida. He also founded the Global Studies program at San Jose State. He spent spring semester 2014 as the Bacardi Eminent Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Florida. He won and managed grants and contracts worth four million dollars.
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