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The US Invasion of Panama (Operation "Just Cause"), December 20, 1989, and National Reflection Day (National Mourning Day)

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National Reflection Day


The US invasion of Panama will commemorate its 28th anniversary this year. By Executive Decree no. 334 the date December 20th is established as National Reflection Day. Public and private organizations should fly the National Flag at half mast and call on Panamanians to dedicate a moment to remember the victims.

There are still no official figures on the number of deaths in the military intervention called “Just Cause”, whose main goal was to arrest Manuel Antonio Noriega. The date is considered as one of the most traumatic dates in the history of Panama.


Panama Deception - YouTube video 


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Pain of  1989 US Invasion remembered

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The 28th anniversary of the US invasion of Panama was marked on Wednesday, December 20 with official ceremonies, demonstrations at the US Embassy, and a march from Chorillo to the National Assembly by relatives of the up to 5000 victims.

A common thread ran through all the events. A renewed  call  for December 20  to be  declared  a National Day of Grief and the need to clarify the events, especially the official number of Panamanians killed during the bombings which started at  midnight,


US Embassy protest

The Union of Construction and Associated  Workers (Suntracs) and the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso) held a picket in front of the United States Embassy in Clayton, which was guarded by a police cordon.

invasion2-768x576.jpgThe Foreign Ministry paid a ‘tribute’ to the victims of the invasion whose remains are buried in the Garden of Peace. The official acts were led by the Chancellor and Vice president, Isabel de Saint Malo, and Security Minister, Alexis Bethancourt.

At the University of Panama, the December 20  Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ombudsman’s Office with the aim of “collaborating effectively” in the clarification of the facts and having ‘full knowledge’ of the number and identity of the victims.

The December 20 Commission was created by the Government and its main purpose is to achieve an official registry of the victims with figures ranging from 500 to 5000, Panamanian deaths, thousands injured and 20,000 losing their homes as Chorillo burned. There were 27 US military deaths.

The commission is working to identify the human remains found in mass graves and in custody of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences where they have begun the DNA analysis of the relatives that will be compared with those of the bone remains.

The commemoration  ceremonies ended  a march from El Chorrillo to the National Assembly.organized by relatives of the victims and various labor and student organizations

“The relatives still feel this pain, there is no December that people do not remember that disastrous invasion, even those who applauded it also talk about it,” said Trinidad Ayola, president of the Association of Relatives and Friends of the Fallen of December 20.



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H.W. Bush and the Panama invasion

H.W. Bush,when serving as US Vice-president, meeting with Manuel Noriega
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As the anniversary of the US invasion of Panama (Dec 22)  many commentators will be focusing on the role of George H.W. Bush in the event that led to the deaths of up to4,000 Panamanians (depending on whose figures you use).

During the week surrounding his death and burial tributes poured in for his foreign policy achievements, but missing from most assessments was any reference to Panama.

Washington based Inter American Dialogue filled in the gap on December 7 after a writer visited the Bush museum in Texas.

The most controversial episode in Latin America during the Bush administration was the 1989 invasion in Panama to oust strongman Manuel Noriega. And the only thing related to Latin America in the Bush Foundation are the handcuffs used in Noriega’s arrest. Noriega was wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges, and the administration was determined to forcibly remove him from power and bring him to justice. The invasion provoked a strong reaction in Latin America, however. Though Latin Americans had no love for Noriega’s criminal, dictatorial rule, for many the unilateral, military action had a dubious legal foundation and evoked memories of US interventionism during the Cold War and before. That Noriega had long been a CIA asset didn’t help assuage their concerns. It was a troubling throwback that cost many lives and much destruction and seemed out of character for an administration so committed to multilateralism.

Of course, some parts of the Bush legacy in Latin America have proved more enduring and fruitful than others. After three decades since the start of the Bush presidency, there are sharp differences and much intense debate about the evolution and current state of trade, drugs, and democracy throughout the hemisphere.

Still, what the Bush administration showed is how crucial “style” is in diplomacy. Genuine and regular consultations are key to building trust and a sense of community. This is true generally, but especially so in Latin America, where the asymmetry with the United States is so pronounced and has strongly shaped inter-American relations, often with unhappy results.

George HW Bush’s record in Latin America teaches many lessons for constructively dealing with today’s hemispheric challenges. Perhaps, with time, that part of the 41st president’s legacy will be recognized, and find a well-deserved place in the Bush Museum in College Station, Texas.



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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to The Anniversary of the December 1989 US Invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) And G. H. W. Bush's Role
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29 years ago today the U.S. invaded Panama.


INVASION documents the collective memory and willful amnesia of Panamanian filmmaker Abner Benaim's fellow countrymen, utilizing a combination of reenactments and interviews of the 1989 US Invasion. The people's lives were deeply shaken by the invasion: Defense forces who fought symbolic battles, politicians who justify their actions, friends of the church, from civilians to former General Noriega. The Invasion is a platform to talk about the perils of sovereignty, democracy and endangered virtues of today's ultra-capitalist world. Invasion not only explores the mechanisms in which memory is turned into history, but holds a mirror to the present to show how our recent past shapes new Panama.


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Panama honors the fallen of the US invasion 29 years later

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 19:09

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The Panamanians today commemorated with activities the 29th anniversary of the US invasion, on December 20, 1989, which overthrew the dictatorship of General Manuel Antonio Noriega, in this day, the relatives of the victims made a call to reflection in order to not forget the tragic event.

The commemorative events by the Government began with a visit to the Garden of Peace, a private cemetery in this capital, where most of the victims of the invasion are buried.

The president of the Association of Relatives and Friends of Victims of December 20, 1989, Trinidad Ayola, noted the importance of vindicate the memory of those who did not hesitate to risk their lives for the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

"When we achieve justice for the martyrs and their survivors, we will be paying off the historical debt, and our dead will finally be able to rest in peace", she said very emotionally before the present authorities present.

One of the fallen that day was the lieutenant of the Panamanian Air Force Octavio Rodríguez, husband of Ayola, who died during the US bombing of the neighborhood of El Chorrillo, where the Central Barracks of the Noriega Defense Forces were located.

She told to Acan-Efe that a national mourning law is required to reflect on the tragedy, given that the event continues in a forgetfulness and ignorance among Panamanian society.

"No matter is a day of reflection, the Panamanians continue a normal life, they forget what happened 29 years ago, all the blood spilled and all that pain was felt; (...) even festivities are made, which shows that the decree does not take effect", she lamented.

On the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that determined that the United States violated rights to life, liberty and property during the invasion of Panama, and it recommended "total reparation" to the victims, said that the violation of human rights was demonstrated by the excessive force of war.

The president of the Special Commission of December 20, Juan Planells mentioned that now the relatives of the victims have hope to feel vindicated, given that this instance has youth people committed to knowing and revealing the truth.

In 2017, the Panamanian government formed the commission that thoroughly investigates the US invasion to try to establish, among other things, how many people were killed in that conflagration.

He recalled the Spanish photographer Juantxu Rodríguez, who died on December 21, 1989, around of the Marriot hotel in Panama City when he was shot by US Marines while photographing scenes of the invasion of the Central American country.

"Rodriguez died of a shot in the head, he was there embraced to his Canon camera, with it, he intended to report the facts about the confusion existing, given the media siege imposed by the war", he said.

He emphasized that the man who was a correspondent for El País has a memorial in the Parque del Retiro in Madrid to remember his life, while in Panama "is made a try to hide his story for cowardice or ignorance".

Meanwhile, the vice president and chancellor of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo, who attended the official tribute, told reporters that to this day the number of victims is unknown and what happened in each case.

"The country deserves this information, the families of the victims deserve it, it is the minimum that can be given, that the truth is known, documented, known and shared", acknowledged Saint Malo.

The United States invaded Panama on December 20, 1989 with the purpose, according to the US Government, to stop the then Chief of the Defense Forces, Manuel Antonio Noriega (1934-2017), to reinstate democracy, defend their interests in the Canal and protect the lives of American citizens residing in the country.

In the operation "Just Cause" sent 26,000 soldiers to Panama to capture Noriega, whom Washington accused of boosting drug trafficking in the area, according to the argument used by the then US president, George Bush.

The dictator surrendered 13 days later, in a military operation that left around 500 dead, according to the official reports, although other sources speak of 5,000 dead. 

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Survivors of US invasion form common front


Posted 05/07/2019

Survivors of the US  invasion of Panama, on December 20, 1989, have created a common front to support the implementation of the report of the OAS Inter-American  Human Rights Commission   (IACHR) condemning the United States and recommending compensation to civilian and non-combatant victims.

 The announcement came at a Thursday, July 4 meeting at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Panama.

“The case José Isabel Salas Galindo and others vs the  United States is a call for unity and solidarity to support the implementation of the recommendations of the report.

and validate the struggle of the survivors," said lawyer Gilma Camargo, who called on relatives of the dead, and disappeared and people with serious injuries to provide information to be included, while we plan the next hearing to follow up on the implementation process. "

“Frente Salas” will honor the memory of Dionisia Meneses Castrellón de Salas, killed by a missile, while cleaning rice at the door of her house in the city of Colon, on December 22, 1989 and her husband José Isabel Salas Galindo as referents of all the people who were attacked and those who are part of the legal struggle that earned  international condemnation against the United States.The creation of an invasion research institute and activities to commemorate the 30th  anniversary of the invasion was also confirmed.



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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to The US Invasion of Panama (Operation "Just Cause"), December 20, 1989, and National Reflection Day
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Day of mourning mooted to mark US invasion of Panama


Posted 16/10/2019

A draft bill, to raise  national awareness  of the US invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989 has been published by the National Assembly  Health and Social Development committee

The initiative declares that  on December 20 each year, starting in, 2020, National Mourning Day

Day, the national flag will fly at half-mast throughout the national territory.

During the day the transmission and projection of strident music will be prohibited in all radio and television media, state and private; the sale, consumption, and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the national territory, from 12:01, am on December 20 until 12:01 am on December 21, as well as the celebration of public musical shows. Violaters be fined $500 to $5,000, by the municipal authorities.

The preliminary draft also contemplates that the Statistics and Census Directorate of the Comptroller General within the framework of the 2020 census, must raise the statistics of how many Panamanians perished as a result of the invasion



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Remembering the victims of US invasion


Posted 20/12/2019

President, Laurentino Cortizo laid a wreath in the Garden of Peace  on Friday  in memory of the victims of the US military invasion on Friday, December 20, 1989, and  announced his support for the commission preparing an investigation to  determine the facts of the event which led to the deaths of   hundreds  of citizens, Government  authorities, relatives of victims and other sectors of society attended the ceremony.



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Cultural Exhibitions  Bring Invasion History to Life


Posted 20/12/2019

The commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the US invasion of Panama in 1989 is highlighted with photographic exhibitions, videos, interactive material and other activities offered by various cultural institutions in the country.

One of the most outstanding exhibitions "The Invasion in 4 Times", at the Museum of Contemporary Art. will run until March 1, 2020, It is a tour of the events that occurred before, during and after the armed action of the United States that ended 21 years of military dictatorship.

Using different techniques such as painting and video art, artists such as Isabel de Obaldía and Ana Elena Tejera illustrate the military dictatorship and the invasion from a unique perspective highlighting the wounds opened after the intervention and the forgetfulness of the young of an event in which it is not yet known with certainty how many Panamanians died reports La Prensa.

One of the curators of the exhibition, Monica Kupfer, stressed that the exhibition was, to foster a debate about this event that marked the lives of many Panamanians

Another exhibition intended to create an open dialogue is "The Invasion, a story told in pieces", available at the Museum of Freedom and curated by Wendy Tribaldos.

It does not imply the rhetoric of victors and vanquished, said the curator. “Each of us who lived through the invasion has a story to tell. For some, the invasion was a sad event and for others, it was a celebration,” she said.

The interactive exhibition, which uses various photographs from the La Prensa archive, also seeks to allow visitors to tell those facts from their own perspective.

The exhibition offers visitors the possibility of writing their anecdotes and experiences on one of the walls of the museum.

Another multimedia show is “Forbidden to Forget”, in the Panamanian Room of the Ernesto J. Castillero National Library. A compilation of journalistic records about the events that occurred during and after the US invasion. It runs until January 31.

Its organizer, the graphic reporter Adriano Duff, from the Circle of Photojournalists of Panama, stressed that the goal of the exhibition is to recover the historical memory that remains absent from the country's classrooms.



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Exhumation of  US Invasion victims underway


Posted 20/01/2020

The exhumation of the bodies of victims of the US invasion of  Panama  overseen by the December 20, 1989 Commission, began on Monday January 20.

The Commission was  created to clarify the truth about the invasion of the United States. The unknown bodies that are in nlock 20 of the Garden of Peace.

In July 2019, the Public Ministry authorized the reopening of the summaries in the investigation of 15 cases of victims were not identified or disappeared during the invasion.

International organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, have collaborated with the preparation of the team of experts who are  carrying  out the intervention which is expected to take 60 days

So far the commission reports a preliminary list of 331 dead during the invasion have been  fully identified. Some estimates put the death toll at over 4,000



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Remains of 10 US invasion victims located


Posted 07/02/2020

The skeletal remains  of at least 10  victims of the 1989 US invasion of Panama have  been located  by the  Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (Imelcf) , during the exhumation work carried out in the Peace Garden since the January 20

Fve remains have been exhumed and transferred to the judicial morgue, while five others are still in the pits and "where work will continue to locate other coffins," said the Public Ministry.

The Prosecutor of Discharge Homicide / Femicide of the Metropolitan Area, Leticia Del Cid, explained that five skeletal remains were found the afternoon of this Thursday, February 6, during the excavations. He indicated that now they will be "worked and expanded so that expert experts, anthropologists, and archaeologists do the work on their framework, once the sediments have been cleaned."

These exhumation works are carried out by a team of 20 experts from the Imelcf, with the support of forensic anthropologists from the country and abroad.

In July 2019, the Public Ministry at the request of the December 20, 1989 Commission. authorized the reopening of the summaries in the investigation of 15 cases of victims not identified or disappeared during the invasion. This,

This commission was created in 2016 to clarify the truth about the US invasion of Panama and violations of international and humanitarian law.

On its website, the Commission reports a preliminary list of 331 dead during the event.



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Search for bodies of US invasion victims


Posted 11/09/2020

An ocular inspection in to locate mass graves of possible victims of the 1989 US invasion of Panama was carried out on Friday, September 11, in the Monte Esperanza Cemetery in the province of Colón.

The investigation was handled by the Superior Office of Homicide and Femicide of the metropolitan area.

In January, the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (Imelcf) began the process of exhumation of victims of the United States invasion in the Panama area but it was interrupted by the pandemic, resumed in June, and concluded at the beginning of July.

By then, 33 bags with bone remains were exhumed, which were transferred to the Imelcf laboratory for analysis.



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Panama invasion film premiere’s on Netflix


Posted 11/07/2021

The national production of Operation Just Cause –which tells some of the events that occurred on December 20, 1989  during the US invasion of Panama will premiere on  Netflix on Wednesday, July 14, and will include new scenes.

The film, directed by Luis Pacheco and Luis Franco was released in October 2019 .

It features the performances of: Arian Abadi, Patricia de León, Robin Durán, Elmis Castillo, Anthony Anel, Leo Wiznitzer, Christopher Oberto, Rosa Lorenzo, among others.



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Remains of  four victims of US invasion uncovered


Posted 14/10/2021

The remains  of four victims of the United States invasion of Panama in December 1989 were located in a sector of the Monte Esperanza cemetery, in the province of Colón on Thursday, October 14 The cemetery was attended by the Superior Homicide and Femicide Discharge Prosecutor, Geomara Guerra, and by José Luis Sosa, executive secretary of the December 20, 1989 Commission. It was the second diligence in Colon this month.



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US invasion anniversary approved as Day of Mourning


Posted 02/04/2022

President Nito Cortizo has approved a law that declares December 20 as a National Day of Mourning. The legislative initiative, which was presented by the president of the National Assembly,  seeks to raise awareness and educate the population about the history of  December 20, 1989, the day that thousands of Panamanian citizens fell after the invasion of the armed forces of the United States

It was unanimously approved by the plenary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, February 15, 2022.

“With the sanction of the law, we settle a debt with the country, to those who fell in that tragic event whom we record with respect, their families and with all Panamanians who feel love for this blessed land," said Cortizo.

On December 20, the national flag will be flown at half-staff throughout the country, prohibiting the transmission and projection of strident music in all radio and television media.

It also establishes the prohibition of sale, consumption, and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the country, starting at 12:01 am on December 20.

The educational centers of the country must carry out public acts where the causes, motives, and consequences of the events that occurred on that date are highlighted.

With this law, a mandatory break would be generated since it would enter into Article 46 of the Labor Code where January 9 is already established, and those who work that day will be paid time and half . The IACHR determined in 2018 that the United States "committed serious human rights violations during the armed action, detailing that Washington is obliged to compensate the victims, the vast majority of whom are civilians and non-combatants."


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