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A president's tribute to her predecessor and late husband
President Mireya Moscoso's late husband, Dr. Arnulfo Arias, is without question one of the major figures in Panamanian history. However, in the politically polarized way that people here view the nation's history, the basic statistics are in dispute.
Very few would argue that Dr. Arias was not elected three times, in 1940, 1948 and 1968, only to be ousted by coups d'etat each time. Though PRD diehards dispute it, there is also little genuine doubt that the 1984 election was stolen from him by General Manuel Antonio Noriega and his followers, who threw out the votes in San Miguelito, tampered with ballot boxes elsewhere, and declared Nicolás Ardito Barletta the winner. The best evidence is that in 1964 Arias suffered his only legitimate electoral defeat, at the hands of Liberal Marco Robles. Diehard Arnulfistas will dispute that version, alleging that in that contest, too, Arias was denied the presidency by fraud.
Now there's a monument under construction on the site of the old Balboa DENI station, across from the YMCA. It will be inaugurated with its fountains and laser lights on August 15. As ought to be expected, public opinion about it tends to divide along partisan lines. No matter what people may think about the monument's cost, artistic merits or historical justification, however, it will surely become one of Panama's best-known landmarks.