Panama Crisis

Rise of the Southern Cone

South America 1885.0428

Panama Crisis

War of the Pacific, rise of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil (28 April 1885)

Historical Map of South American nations

In April 1885 the United States occupied the Colombian state of Panama to protect American interests in the face of a local revolt. In response, Chile sent the protected cruiser Esmeralda - possibly the most powerful ship in the Pacific at the time - to Panama. Alarmed by this action, but considering the revolt suppressed, the US withdrew, allowing Colombia to restore its rule in the isthmus.

Main Events

Tierra del Fuego gold rush

In 1879 Chilean Navy Lieutenant, Ramón Serrano Montaner, discovered gold near the Strait of Magellan on Tierra del Fuego; more discoveries were made at Cabo Vírgenes in 1884 and in the southern islands of Lennox and Nueva in 1888. The latter were least hospitable but also most productive, pulling in thousands of prospectors by the end of the rush in the early 1900s. The gold rush was devastating to the local Selk'nam or Ona people, whose population fell from perhaps 4,000 in the 1880s to 25 in 1945 as a result of disruption and in a number of cases, deliberate slaughter, by the intruders.

Namuncurá's surrender

After almost five years warfare, the great Mapuche Chief Manuel Namuncurá accepted the Argentine government's amnesty terms, surrendering with 300 followers to Lt. Col. Pablo Belisle in Neuquén region. This action marked the end of organized resistance to the Argentine conquest of the Pampas.

Treaty of Valparaiso

The Plenipotentiaries of Bolivia, Belisario Salinas and Belisario Boeto, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, A. Vergara Albano, signed the Truce Pact between Bolivia and Chile in Valparaiso, Chile, ending the War of the Pacific. By the terms of the pact, Bolivia accepted the Chilean administration of the Pacific territories Chile had conquered in the war; in return, Chile granted Bolivia special rights in the ports of Antofagasta and Arica.

Peruvian civil war

Following the Chilean withdrawal from Peru in mid-1884, the still-resisting General Andrés Cáceres ended his attempts to revoke the 1883 peace treaty with Chile and instead turned his attentions to overthrowing Peruvian President Miguel Iglesias. The civil war began on 27 August, when Cáceres made an unsuccessful attack on Lima. After regrouping in the interior, Cáceres lured Igelsias to send his army into the mountains in November 1885, successfully isolating it at Jauja while Cáceres himself marched into Lima. Defeated, Iglesias resigned on 3 December and departed for exile.

Panama Crisis

In March 1885, the Colombian government moved troops stationed in Panama to deal with rebels in Cartagena, only to have Panama erupt into revolt. To protect its interests, the United States sent ships to Panama City and Colón in early April, occupying both towns around 27 April. In response to this intervention, Chile sent the modern protected cruiser Esmeralda to Panama, where it arrived on 28 April. Alarmed by Chilean actions - it was estimated that the Esmeralda could easily defeat the local US naval forces - but considering the revolt suppressed, the US withdrew from the isthmus two days later.

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