On December 20th, 1989, millions of working people throughout the Americas and the world awoke to the news that the United States had invaded Panama during the night.
Just before the invasion began, about 1 o'clock in the morning, U.S. officials held a secret ceremony at Fort Clayton, one of the 13 U.S. military bases in the Panama Canal Zone. Guillermo Endara was declared Panama's new president. Then the bombing began, ordered by then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
U.S. troops mounted a savage assault on military bases and working-class neighborhoods. Washington's forces eventually reached 26,000... including 12,000 troops stationed there in Panama prior to December 20th.
In the first days of the invasion -- 24 years ago today -- thousands of civilians were killed, wounded or left homeless. While entire barrios were bombed into rubble or burned to the ground, U.S. troops prevented many of the wounded from receiving emergency medical care and the lack of even the most basic medical supplies and facilities led to many deaths. Panamanian victims were poured by the truckload into common graves. Over 5,000 people were rounded up and held in detention.
Two weeks after the invasion, the U.S. occupation forces seized General Manuel Noriega, Panama's head of state, chained him to the floor of a plane and flew him to the United States, where he was accused and convicted by a Miami court on drug trafficking charges. This arrogant move was in gross violation of Panamanian sovereignty, as well as all norms of international law.
Washington's action was so flagrantly illegal that the overwhelming majority of world governments were compelled to state their opposition. The Organization of American States, long a pliant tool of Washington's imperial aggressions, condemned the invasion with only one single dissenting vote -- that of the U.S. delegate. The United Nations General Assembly went on record against the invasion by a huge margin.
The governments that did back Washington were themselves targets of protest. The president of the Canadian Labor Congress, for example, protested the government of Canada's support for the invasion, calling it "a simple-minded endorsement of vigilante justice."
How was this invasion justified by George H.W. Bush? -- Big Daddy Bush... not his son, Shrub... he'd come a little later... The Commander in Chief of U.S. military forces claimed that the invasion was needed to safeguard U.S. citizens, restore democracy and protect the Panama Canal treaties. We don't think so.
The truth is that after several years of trying to overthrow Panama's government using everything from economic sanctions to coup attempts, Washington finally decided that only direct military intervention could accomplish what it really wanted. The aim was to install a client regime, smash the movement for national sovereignty and social justice that had developed in Panama over the previous twenty years, undermine the Panama Canal treaties, ensure the use of U.S. military bases in the Central American country and strengthen U.S. domination throughout the region.
Today, nearly a quarter of a century since the U.S. invasion of Panama, the imperialists have not been able to accomplish their dream of domination -- which would not be a dream, but a nightmare for the people of Latin America. Today, our region is more united and working together for regional integration. Today, the real dream -- the dream of Simón Bolívar and José Martí -- is coming true.
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