Bernal, The authoritarian base: corregimientos displacing municipalities

the fallen
The 1968-1989 dictatorship was not just a bunch of institutional changes. These are the faces of 21 of the more than 100 people killed or disappeared by the dictatorship. Collage taken from the Panama Escuela Vieja page.

Corregimiento vs. Municipality

by Miguel Antonio Bernal V.

With the intention of legalizing, legitimizing and even “institutionalizing” the coup, the military proceeded, in 1972, to impose a constitution that disorganized the constitutional evolution of Panama.

Said statute, in its original version, stipulated in its Article 5:

The territory of the Republic of Panama is distributed in Provinces and these in Districts, divided into Corregimientos that constitute the political base of the State…

This imposition, rather than provision, decapitated the municipal regime contemplated in the 1946 Constitution, which provided:

Article 5: The territory of the Republic is divided into autonomous municipalities, grouped into provinces…

The municipality or municipium, emerged in Ancient Rome and was named after the main city that was governed by its own laws. “From here the word autonomy was also born, whose original meaning is the condition of an entity or territorial district to be governed by its own rules. Municipalities as a territorial entity and their government (municipality) are older than the State.

History teaches us that absolute monarchs suppressed municipal autonomy and sometimes the municipal corporation itself. Officials outside their jurisdiction, called corregidores, were imposed on them. The municipalities were buried many times and many others were reborn. Stronger than despotisms, they projected themselves into the future and have reached our days endowed with strength and autonomy.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that: in ancient Greece, the birth of the city and politics took place, to the extent that the city is not different from the State (The State is the city and the city is the State). The Greek polis was founded on democracy, it integrated the citizen who assumed it as his own: “In this way, the city was the first form of political participation and the setting for the construction of the triad made up of the city, the State and the citizenry.

The municipality, considered to be “the primary school of democracy,” was restored to our 1946 Constitution thanks to the Constituent Assembly that originated it, after the failed “provincial city council” imposed by the 1941 Constitution.

The abolition of the 1946 Constitution by the 1968 military coup d’état opened the way for the imposition of the corregimientos as a territorial and political base, which would serve thereafter as support for the authoritarian political regime established by the dictatorship and that today, still predominates.



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