The Acts of the Democracies




USA and Panama

The USA invades Panama to capture Manuel Noriega, the former USA backed president whom they accuse of drug trafficking. Over 4000 Panamanians are killed in the operation with unknown numbers buried in mass graves or incinerated. Of the invaders, 23 Americans die. The USA, UK and France veto a United Nations resolution condemning the invasion.

During the invasion, residential areas are attacked by helicopters. A tank destroys a bus killing 26 people. Houses are burnt and buldozed. Over 15,000 people lose their homes. Troops shoot at ambulances killing many wounded. Access to the Red Cross is denied by the USA military.

The village of Pacora is sprayed with a gas that causes peoples' skin to burn and gives the villagers diarrhea.

Political offices, newspaper offices and radio stations are searched and looted; opposition and union leaders are detained. The office of the Panamanian publishing company ERSA (which owns three newspapers) are occupied by USA security forces who turn it over to a member of the ruling elite who had favoured USA intervention in Panama. The editor of the newspaper La Republica, which had opposed USA intervention and had reported casualty figures, is arrested by the USA military, held for six weeks and imprisoned without trial or charge.

Staff from the Embassy of Cuba are detained. Loud music is blared at the Embassy of the Vatican City after Noriega takes refuge there.

The residence of the ambassador of Nicaragua is ransacked by USA troops in violation of the Geneva Convention. The USA vetoes a United Nations resolution condemning the violation of diplomatic privilege; the UK abstains. This was not reported in the USA media.

Noriega is eventually arrested and imprisoned in the USA after having worked for the CIA since the early 1950s. He had spied on fellow students, instructors and officers at the Military Acadamy for the CIA and had monitored union activity against the USA company United Fruit. During the 1980s he had been receiving $ 200,000 per year from the USA for his activities.

The Panamanian military is put under the leadership of Colonel Eduardo Herrera Hassan. The USA newspaper, The New York Times writes that Hassan "most energetically shot, gassed, beat and tortured civilian protestors during the wave of demonstrations against Gereral Noriega that erupted [in Panama] in the summer of 1987" but is "a favorite of the American and diplomatic establishment here."

Money laundering and drug trafficking continues in the new regime with USA soldiers implicated.

The news agency, Associated Press, reports that the USA Congress passes a resolution (389-26) "commending [President George] Bush for his handling of the invasion and expressing sadness over the loss of 23 American lives".

Little mention is made of Panama's civilian casualties in the USA media and no compensation has ever been paid to the thousands of homeless living in refugee camps. The poor neighbourhood of El Chorillo, flattened by the USA action, is to be redeveloped into a posh area as business opponents of Noriega had long desired.

All foreign media is banned by the USA during the invasion.

The USA president, George Bush, is asked if the capture of Noriega was worth the death toll: "I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it".

The USA author Noam Chomsky later writes:

"A few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the USA invaded Panama, killing hundreds or thousands of people, vetoing two [United Nations] Security Council resolutions, and kidnapping a thug who was jailed in the USA for crimes that he had mostly committed while on the CIA payroll before committing the only one that mattered: disobedience. The pattern of events was familiar enough, but there were some differences. One was pointed out by Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to crimes committed when he was a State Department official during the Reagan years, and has now been appointed Human Rights specialist at the [USA] National Security Council. At the time of the invasion, he commented, astutely, that for the first time in many years the USA could resort to force with no concern about Russian reactions. There were also new pretexts: the intervention was in defense against Hispanic narcotraffickers, not the Russians who were mobilizing in Managua, two days march from Harlingen, Texas."

Elliot Abrams observed that "[USA President] Bush probably is going to be increasingly willing to use force [now that] developments in Moscow have lessened the prospect for a small operation to escalate into a superpower conflict".

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