Bernal, Thirty-six years ago

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Thirty-six years ago

by Miguel Antonio Bernal V.

Saturday, December 19 will be 36 years after a savage beating in which I was the victim at the hands of agents of the military dictatorship, for protesting the presence of the bloodthirsty Shah of Iran in Panama, who was the guest of the ruling military regime.

The peaceful demonstration was convened in front of the Don Bosco basilica, where some 100 citizens gathered and nearby, numerous radio patrols and motorcycle cops of the Guardia Nacional, all dressed for combat. Also present were a great number of G-2 agents, disguised as civilians.

When we gathered to march, more than 20 motorcycles moved in on us. That caused a panic, with the demonstrators running back to the sidewalks.The motorcycle cops stopped a few meters from where I was. Bullhorn in hand, I walked toward the guardia for the purpose of talking with them. In seconds, with a shocking ferocity, a man with a hose in hand and shouting a torrent of vulgarities, shouted “Here’s Bernal — hit him, kill him,” and pounced on me, supported by numerous G-2 and other armed elements. They jostled with each other to hit. They hosed, punched, kicked and fell on me with brutal fury. What’s more, to their great disgrace they hit and hit without any scruples, then raised their victim when he fell to continue the beating.

The brutal beating also extended to Victor Navas King, who intervened to try to pull me from the circle of death, and also to Doña Elvia Lefevre de Wirz and another woman who is still unknown to me. The voices of the executioners repeated: “Hit him, kill him!” The fiercest of all, the one who commanded the attack, was Fritz Gibson Parrish, known by the nickname “Sangre.” There is no forgetting.

Later, they brought me unconscious to the central headquarters and much later, to Santo Tomas Hospital, where the doctors gave me the assistance that saved my life.

Those directly responsible for the attack were duly denounced before judicial authorities in 1990. I still await justice.

 

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