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Home About Us Equipo Sur South-North Encuentro Panama - 2010 Encuentro Country Updates
Panama - 2010 Encuentro Country Updates PDF Print E-mail

2010 Encuentro Country Updates

PANAMA

By JULIO YAO
Servicio Paz y Justicia en Panamá (Serpaj-Panamá)


Panama has a rich history of United States military intervention:  1856, 1885, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1908, 1916, 1917 a 1919, 1921, 1925, 1941, 1947, 1958, 1959, 1964, 1981, 1985/1989, 1991, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003/2010.

Such interventions - mostly military, though sometimes diplomatic and covert with military ends - have meant massive, general and patterned, human and international rights violations for the Panamanian people.  It has made us less indepedent and has prohibited our liberty.  We can confirm that, due to the Torrijos-Carter Treaties appealing the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty of 1903, everything was allowed to begin - now the United States has more military rights than in the cited treaty.

When General Omar Torrijos died in the attack on his plane, on July 31, 1981, the first on the scene were the U.S. military's Southern Command, not the Panamanians. There are rumors that "cleaned" the site.

General Manuel Antonio Noriega - today unjustly imprisoned in France - was pressured on December 10, 1985 by John Poindexter, Director of National Security for the White House to withdraw Panama from the Grupo de Contadora for peace in Central America, our own initiative; so that Panama would continue allowing U.S. military bases far beyond December 31, 1999, in violation of the Torrijos-Carter Treaty; so that Panama would allow the training of the "contra" anti-Sandinistas in the Canal Zone. Despite having worked with the CIA, even on parts of the Iran-Contra project, Noriega refused such pressure, causing massive covert operations against Noriega and Panama. The directives to destabilize Panama for failing to cooperate, which were classified as SECRETE AND SENSITIVE were decided in early April 1986 and are the source of the whole process of demonization of the ex-CIA who had the courage to say "no" to imperialism. Previous complaints include, of course, Panama's refusal to allow the School of the Americas continue in our territory, an decision made by former President Jorge Illueca that Noriega respected.

The United States - remember that the Southern Command was located in Panama - invaded national territory in many ways: its ships and aircraft passed without authorization or control; there performed skydiving maneuvers in places dangerous for commercial aviation and dangerous for the local population, without warning; the U.S. forces landed far and wide throughout Panamanian territory and occupied drinking water facilities in the metropolitan region and hydroelectric plants, and kidnapped the officials of these facilities. The United States suspended the validity of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, in violation of international law, and this meant their ignoring of the Combined Board of Defense, joint American-Panamanian entity whose responsibility was to coordinate all matters relating to protection and defense of the Canal, including the movement of U.S. troops within national territory who were escorted by Panamanian Defense Forces.

Between 1988 and 1989, senior U.S. military pressured Noriega to leave power, but he refused. Meanwhile, from 1987 until the invasion, the U.S. was actively supporting the so-called Civil Crusade, which originated in the private sector and even had an official seat in Washington against international law. The Crusade was funded with money that Panama kept in the United States, which were illegally frozen by the Department of State.

In March 1989, the U.S. was involved in a failed coup against Noriega, with support from the Christian Democrats. On October 3, 1989, another coup against Noriega by a group of defected soldiers, partly succeeded, but the United States, which was coordinating with the coup, refused to take out Noriega because they had already decided to invade Panama and did not support the revolt. Colin Powell, newly appointed Chief of the Joint Chiefs decided to saturate to Panama with forces so great that it was impossible to fail, and this strategic plan was called the "Powell Doctrine." The leaders of the failed coup attempt were executed for national treason.

The invasion came when no one expected. According to the Commission of Inquiry into the Invasion, led by Dr. Ramsey Clark, between 5,000 and 7,000 Panamanians were killed. The Defense Forces and the Dignity Battalions, besides from senior officers of the former, carried out a resistance for several days and weeks, but the overwhelming force was a decisive factor.

After the invasion, Panama signed an agreement in March 1991 that allows free entry of the United States Coast Guard into Panama (sea and rivers); in 2002, this agreement was extended to permit that the Coast Guard invites other branches of the U.S. armed forces and other states to intervene in order to coordinate the fight against narcotrafficking "and other international crimes"; allow the pursuit and destruction of suspicious vessels by United States ships and aircraft; authorizes the U.S. to detain suspicious ships and the whole crew to be judged U.S. courts without special permission from Panama; allows the use of national ports and airports by the Pentagon, without allowing that Panama be able to ask about its origin, purpose and source, without time limits (Salas-Becker Treaty). In 2004, the Salas-Becker Treaty was amended by the Escalona-Bolton amendment to allow the United States to intercept ships with the Panamanian flag ships anywhere in the world, without special authorization, in search of weapons of mass destruction.

In 1999, before handing over the Canal, a "secret agreement" was signed between U.S. military intelligence and national government to establish two offices at the terminals of the waterway and train Panamanian personnel.
Today, it is reported that U.S. forces are in Metetí, Darien, with vehicles, containers, etc.., without knowing what their respective goals and authorizations are. The government is silent. Although the forces have declared humanitarian intentions, they have not carried out certain steps like publishing their operation in advance, in relation with schools and parents. The residents have no knowledge about the purposes of U.S. forces. However, Frank Mora, Undersecretary of Defense for Latin America, said last month in Panama that our country must combat the FARC because the war is not only in Colombia but also in Panama, because the FARC threaten the Canal.

Next month the Panamax Maneuvers 2010 will be carried out, with the participation of 22 states from around the region and from NATO, performing exercises to address threats to Panama and the Canal. These exercises have been carried out since 2003 and are a violation of the Neutrality Treaty and the National Constitution, which do not allow foreign forces to defend us. On the contrary, it is stated that Panamanians have a duty to take up arms for national defense.

All these interventions have been reported to the media, but they do not cooperate in disseminating the information because it is considered a taboo subject and they do not want to upset the U.S. embassy. The division of the popular movement, moreover, has kept us from making a higher incidence of complaints, which has led us to make efforts with some sectors to maintain a united front in defense of national sovereignty and peace.

 

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