Panama represents one of the only modern success stories of foreign-imposed regime change (FIRC) following Operation Just Cause, a military intervention led by the United States to remove Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Literature on foreign military interventions as a whole traditionally suggests that FIRC is not effective long-term in countries trying to democratize. Panama’s democratization therefore represents a puzzle in why it has succeeded where so many others failed. This puzzle is compounded by the fact that Panama’s transition has not received much attention from political scientists despite Latin America generally being of interest to FIRC scholars. This paper posits that Panama succeeded due to its broader regional context, prior experience with democracy, long-term relationship with the U.S., transitionary stability provided by regime-era holdovers, and the impending transfer of the Panama Canal. Political scientists and foreign policy advisors should reevaluate Panama’s success story and apply the lessons learned from it in future understandings of foreign intervention and global regime change.



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