PANAMA (Video) Establishes Day of Mourning – 18 Yrs After U. S. Slaughter

Posted on December 23, 2007


“This is a recognition of those who fell on Dec. 20 as a result of the cruel and unjust invasion by the most powerful army in the world,” said Rep. Cesar Pardo, of the governing Democratic Revolutionary Party, which holds a majority in the legislature.

Little is known of the US invasion of Panama in 1989. I should say little is known here in the U. S. about this invasion. In an AP article that appeared in the International Herald Tribune (see below), we learn that last week Panama’s legislature established a national day of mourning and a commission to figure out how many people were killed when the U. S. invaded. The film reveals extraordinary details about the invasion including the evidence that the number of Panamanians killed is far above what the U. S. maintains. Below is a documentary about the 1989 invasion — it’s about 90 minutes long.

Panama declares U.S. invasion date a national day of mourning

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 20, 2007

PANAMA CITY, Panama: The anniversary of the 1989 U.S. invasion was declared a day of “national mourning” by Panama’s legislature on Thursday, and it established a commission to determine how many people were killed when U.S. troops stormed the capital.

The measure was unanimously approved as Panama commemorated the 18th anniversary of the day thousands of troops landed to arrest dictator Manuel Noriega on drug charges.

“This is a recognition of those who fell on Dec. 20 as a result of the cruel and unjust invasion by the most powerful army in the world,” said Rep. Cesar Pardo, of the governing Democratic Revolutionary Party, which holds a majority in the legislature.

The measure, which requires the approval of President Martin Torrijos, also calls for a monument to honor the dead, most likely in El Chorrillo neighborhood that was destroyed by bombs during the attack.

U.S. officials downplayed the issue.

“We prefer to look to the future,” said U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall. “We are very satisfied to have a friend and partner like Panama, a nation that has managed to develop a mature democracy.”

Polls at the time indicated that Panamanians overwhelmingly welcomed the invasion that rid them of Noriega, who was later convicted in absentia here and sentenced to 60 years in prison on charges of embezzlement, corruption and murdering opponents.

But there have been increasing feelings that the invasion was a blow to the nation’s dignity.

The government estimates that 472 to 500 Panamanians were killed, but human rights organizations say more than 1,000 died. About 25,000 U.S. troops participated in the invasion, 23 of whom were killed.

Thursday’s measure establishes a “truth and reconciliation” commission with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and attorney general’s office to determine the exact number of civilian and military deaths.

It also will try to list the names of those killed from October 1968, when military rule began in Panama under the current president’s father, to December 1989, when Noriega was ousted.

Noriega became president after his mentor, Gen. Omar Torrijos, died in a 1981 plane crash.

Noriega, a former collaborator of the CIA, was sentenced to 30 years on U.S. drug trafficking charges in 1992. His sentence, reduced for good behavior, ended on Sept. 9, but he remains in custody until the resolution of an extradition request by France, which wants to try him on money-laundering charges.

While Noriega was imprisoned, Torrijos’ old party was voted out of power and the military was replaced by a national police force.

Torrijos’ son Martin, who earned an economics degree at Texas A&M University, worked to distance himself from the old dictatorship, noting he was in the U.S. at the time. He was elected president in 2004.

“All political sectors have wanted to cast a blanket of forgetfulness” over the invasion, said Rep. Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, president of the legislature since September, on the eve of the anniversary.

“Maybe out of shame or for other reasons, but it isn’t fair to all of those Panamanians that still lie in common graves,” he said.

The United States has a pending case against Gonzalez for the alleged murder of U.S. soldier Zak Hernandez in 1992 during an ambush that came just days before a visit from then-President George H.W. Bush.

Elizabeth Ayala, leader of a movement representing relatives of Panamanians killed during the invasion, thanked lawmakers for their vote saying “the names of the dead will not be forgotten.”

Posted in: CIA, Latin America, US