A National Disgrace: the “Trial” and Execution of Victoriano Lorenzo

Images thanks to Mr. George Chevalier

A month had passed and with no word from his people in Penonomé his desperation induced him to begin to engineer an escape. His plans were to make an attempt even if he was caught; anything was better than to wait for death to overtake him. The night of December 23rd, he thought, would be the night he would try his escape.

He was 35 years old, however, and the inactivity while in prison had placed him at a physical disadvantage. Nonetheless, he thought that he must, at all cost, try to escape, a notion that had never before occurred to him. “If I could make it back to Penonomé for just some time…,” he thought, while he planned to make his move when he noticed that the guards had diverted their attention regarding his person and his presence.

It was the night before Christmas and Victoriano Lorenzo waited patiently, praying that his plans for an escape would become a reality. He yearned for the bush country he knew so well, and hoped that he could make it past the guards past midnight as they would have been in a festive mood celebrating Christmas. Victoriano knew the surrounding countryside very well and he gained more confidence as he waited until the sleeping guard at his door leaned his night chair against the wall outside his cell.

He had been a trustee in Chiriqui for nine long years and he knew about prison guards and their routines. Like a cougar he slipped out the door, stealthily made it out into the hall way and past the sleeping guard. He glided silently and slowly down the stairs thinking that walking on hard ground was easier than walking on sun dried under brush.

The walls were not equipped with a shining spotlight as in real prisons, so that he only had to make it to the street. But, before he could make it to the street, the alarm was sounded and, much to his dismay, he could hear the scurrying of troops, awake now and looking for the fugitive. They cornered him as he tried to duck into one of the offices and, again, he was apprehended and placed in his cell. He did not utter a word of complaint as the guards roughly handled him throwing him against the wall of his cell and then angrily locked the door this time. Five more months would pass while Victoriano was held incommunicado. Even his family members were denied permission to see or talk to him.

On the 13th day of May the City of Panama would come alive again suddenly as a company of troops of the Colombian army would sharply enter the city mounted on their horses. They looked as fresh as if they had just arrived from Bogota, which by all appearances, seemed to be only a couple of miles from town. Their sabers, brightly polished leather and golden buttons impressed everyone with their authority.

It was the display of General Pedro Sicard Briceño, the newly appointed Military Commandant of Panama, however, that awed everyone, as he entered the city to take over the command of the entire country. The very next day General Sicard Briceño ordered arrangements for the calling of a Military War Council and by 1:00 p.m. the soldiers involved in the administrative duty were posting bills all over the city announcing the meeting of the War Council. Military headquarters would be convened and ready to deliberate at exactly 2:00 p.m.

The presiding judge for the prosecution was General Segundo Ruiz, an avowed enemy of General Victoriano Lorenzo, and three other officers. There was no one, however, to argue for the defendant, and the “trial” proceeded quickly. At 8:30 a.m. on the 15th day of May, 1903, the War Council dryly and coldly sentenced the defendant to death by firing squad.

The death sentence was carried out that same evening at 1700 hours, in the old plaza de Chiriqui, today renamed Plaza de Francia. The body of Victoriano Lorenzo, the preferred son of La Negrita and most honored Cholo of Coclé, lay riddled with bullets, bullets that had never found their mark in the elite War of a Thousand Days in Calidonia.

This story will continue .

Comments are closed.