Belisario Porras

Belisario Porras biography
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Belisario Porras biography

Belisario Porras Barahona (November 28, 1856 – August 28, 1942) was born in Las Tablas, Republic of New Granada, and now Panama. Politician, military and writer, considered one of the most influential politicians of the first half of the twentieth century in Panama. He was president of Panama on three occasions. His first term was between 1912 and 1916, after the US intervention in Panama, which was linked to the interests of the country in the interoceanic canal. He returned to the presidency in 1918 and two years later he was elected president of the country, supported by his elite. In the course of his government, which was marked by the actions of the US government, he worried about improving the country’s infrastructure and economy.

Son of Demetrio Porras Cavero, lawyer and Juana Gumersinda Barahona, attended the first years of training at his native Las Tablas, later moved to Bogotá, where he carried out his secondary studies at the Colegio de San Bartolomé. In the 1870s, he entered the National University of Bogotá, where he studied law, later completed his doctorate in law and political science, graduating in 1881. Porras continued his training abroad thanks to a scholarship granted by the State, he studied at the University of Leuven in Belgium.



After finishing his studies he returned to the country, and began to work as a journalist, for the same period he began to actively participate in the politics of the country, militating in the Liberal Party, a party that at that time had great influence in the country, which was ruled between conservatives and liberals, always in conflict.

His political thinking was influenced by Buenaventura Correoso, a recognized Panamanian military, and educator who ruled the Department of Panama when Porras was small. Towards the end of the 1890s the Thousand Days War broke out, confrontation initiated by the liberals against the conservative regime, during the development of this civil war the liberals were dominated by the force of the conservatives, without any chance of victory. The liberal side negotiated the end of the war through a series of treaties.

During the Porras confrontation, he actively participated in the battles, leading the entrance to the Isthmus of Panama, supported by the governments of Ecuador and Nicaragua, led by Eloy Alfaro and José Santos Zelaya; together they created a battalion of volunteers that invaded Panama, after facing the resistance he managed to take the department and proclaimed himself Chief Civil and Military of the Department of Panama, then appointed Emiliano J. Herrera Chief of Military Operations. However, in July 1900 the liberals of Panama were defeated in the confrontation known as Battle of the Calidonia Bridge (July 24, 1900).

Due to the triumph of the conservative Porras, he was forced into exile in El Salvador. Later, he took refuge in Nicaragua. While residing abroad he worked as a professor of Law and Geography, at the same time he collaborated in several publications in which his political militancy was reflected. During his stay, he also associated with the liberal parties of El Salvador and Nicaragua. In the course of these years, the Department of Panama separated from the Republic of Colombia, an event that marked the history of Colombia. The separation was due to various reasons, among these, the interests of the US government in Panama influenced, specifically in the construction of the interoceanic canal; Porras did not agree with the separation, he saw it as one of the most serious offenses to the sovereignty of the State, he also disagreed with the signing of the Hay-Buneau Varilla treaties, through which certain privileges were given to the United States government in the country.

By 1904 he returned to Panama where he began his political career being elected councilor. However, his career was hampered when his nationality was withdrawn due to his views on the separation of the isthmus. In 1907, he recovered his rights and was appointed delegate of Panama to the International Court of The Hague. In the following years, his career was consolidated, becoming one of the most prominent liberal politicians in the country, a popularity that allowed him to be a candidate for president in the 1910s, being elected as such in 1912.


Porras Mandates (1912 – 1916, 1918 and 1920-1922)

Porras ruled Panama in three periods, during which he tried to consolidate the Republic, which is why he is seen as the father of the Republic in the country. Throughout his government he managed the bases of the Panamanian nation, facing various obstacles linked to the actions of the US government in the country, which intervened and monitored for several years since its economic interests were at stake. During these years he also worried about the economy of the country, boosting trade, carried out various projects focused on improving the infrastructure of the country, also worried about the living conditions of citizens, creating projects that would improve these areas, such as Hospitals and schools. Towards the end of his last term, the military confrontation known as the Coto War (1921) was carried out, a contest in which Panama and Costa Rica met. After a long and outstanding political career, the Panamanian died on August 28, 1942, in Panama.

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