The Acts of the Democracies

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Year : 1989

14 Items Selected

Generated : 8th December 2023



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".

USA and Libya

USA forces shoot down two Libyan planes off the coast of Libya. The USA vetoes a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the action.

USA Vetos in UN

The USA vetoes a number of United Nations resolutions:

Two resolutions calling for all states to observe international law: one condemning USA support for the Contra army in Nicaragua, the other condemning the USA's illegal embargo of Nicaragua (only Israel votes with the USA); opposing the acquisision of territory by force (151 to 3 with Israel and Dominica).

A resolution calling for the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on previous United Nations resolutions calling for recognised borders, security and self determination for the Palestinians.

Between 1970 and 1990, the USA used its United Nations veto 58 times. This is more than any other country possessing a veto (USA, The Soviet Union (USSR), UK, France, China). The UK is second in its use of the veto.

This is reported in the USA newspaper, The Washington Post, as follows: "During the Cold War years, the Soviet veto and the hostility of many Third World nations made the United Nations an object of scorn to many American politicians and citizens."

The UK television station, BBC, reports that "Time and time again during the Cold war, the Kremlin used its veto to protect its interests from the threat of UN intervention". The Kremlin is the seat of government of the USSR.

USA and Cambodia

The USA Congress passes a law banning direct or indirect "lethal aid" to Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge (former genocidal rulers of Cambodia).

In defiance, the USA administration continues to send arms to the Khmer Rouge via Singapore.

The Khmer Rouge is trained to destabilise Cambodia and neighbouring Vietnam. The force is trained by the UK. A Ministry of Defence official tells Simon O'Dwyer-Russell of the UK newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph:

"If [USA's] Congress had found out that Americans were mixed up in clandestine training in Indochina, let alone with Pol Pot, the balloon would have gone right up. It was one of those classic Thatcher-Reagan arrangements. It was put to her that the SAS should take over the Cambodia show, and she agreed."


In Paraguay, the dictator, Stroessner is overthrown by a military coup.

El Salvador

6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter are killed by the military in El Salvador. A United Nations commission would later reveal that 19 of the 26 military officers involved in the killings were trained at the USA based School of the Americas.

USA aid to this country (most of which ends up with the military) peaks at $1 million per day. American coffee companies benefit.


Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader to the military regime in Burma, is placed under house arrest. Over 3000 opposition party workers are arrested and 100 are sentenced to death.


Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American nun, is abducted by the army in Guatemala. She is burned with cigarettes, repeatedly raped, lowered into a pit full of corpses and forced to stab another female prisoner. The man in charge is fair skinned and speaks Spanish with an American accent. He stops the torture when he realises that Ortiz is a USA citizen.

In 1996, Ortiz would obtain a document from the USA State Department in which her case is mentioned:

"We need to close the loop on the issue of the 'North American' named by Ortiz as being involved in the case. The embassy is very sensitive to this issue, but it is an issue we will have to respond to publicly."


A few weeks after the massacre of thousands of dissidents in Tienanmen Square in China, the USA approves business deals worth $ 300 million with the government. These include agricultural sales and a grant to build an underground railway in Shanghai. Two Chinese scholars invited by universities in the USA are denied entry after pressure from the Chinese government.

Children and World Poverty

The World Health Organisation (WHO) publishes a report that receives minimal attention from the Western media.

The report states that 11 million children die every year in the poorer countries from easilly preventiable causes like diarrhea (4 million, most of which could be saved by salt and sugar tablets costing less than $1) and infectious diseases (3 million, which could be vaccinated at a cost of $10 each).

The USA opposes an increase in aid to poorer countries to 0.2% of Gross National Product (GNP).

In 1989, poorer countries pay the rich countries $ 42,900 million more in debt repayments than they recieve in aid. This is an increase of $ 5,000 million from the previous year. Many of these debts were incurred by unelected governments supported, armed and sometimes put in place by the West. The people of these countries end up paying the debt with their lives.

Dominican Republic

A report in the UK magazine The Economist, describes conditions in the Dominican Republic 25 years after the USA invaded the country and imposed its preferred government and economic system. The report says:

Elections in the Philippines

During the election campaign for Corazon Aquino in the Philippines, writer Conrado de Quiros describes "democracy" in his country in his column in the newspaper, Daily Globe:

"For most Filipinos, American-style democracy meant little more than elections every few years. Beyond this, the colonial authorities made sure that only the candidates who represented colonial interests first and last won. This practice did not die with colonialism. The ensuing political order, which persisted long after independence, was one where a handful of familes effectively and ruthlessly ruled a society riven by inequality. It was democratic in form, borrowing as many American practices as it could, but autocratic in practice."

He goes on to say that democracy "was not designed to make Filipinos free but to make them more confortable with their chains". Of the candidates, "it is only those with money and muscle that can be elected". Candidates are mainly "relatives of powerful political families or members of the economic elite". Parties favoured by these elite elements outspend parties favoured by the majority of the population by 20 to 1.

Poverty and the "Free Market"

The journal South and the United Nations publication Report on Human Development describe the effect on people of the "free-market" as imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on several countries in South America as a condition for loans.

Brazil has the world's 8th largest economy, enormous natural wealth, no security concerns, a favourable climate and a reasonably homogenous population. According to the reports:

These events are happening 25 years after the Brazilian military took power in a coup described at the time by the USA Ambassador, Lincoln Gordon, as "the single most decisive victory of freedom in the mid-twentieth century". Once the democratic government had been removed the USA supported and financed the new regime and praised its economic policies, saying that they created "a greatly improved climate for private investment".

At one time, Argentina was one of the ten richest countries in the world. It has abundant resources, a rich coast line, and a homogenous population. According to reports:

In oil rich Venezuela, reports say:

Chile had its democratically elected governmnet removed by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973. The reports say:

Antonio Garza Morales writing in the magazine, Excelsior, remarks that "the social cost which has been paid by the Chilean people is the highest in Latin America".

Vietnamese in Hong Kong

The UK begins the forcible repatriation of Vietnamese refugees from Hong Kong.

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