Another December 19
by Miguel Antonio Bernal
The Shah’s arrival in Panama from Iran on Saturday, December 15, 1979, was taken by people here with great displeasure. It was clearly a Jimmy Carter imposition, gladly accepted by Omar Torrijos.
Various radio commentators called for a peaceful demonstration for Wednesday the 19th in front of the Don Bosco Church to repudiate the deposed monarch’s presence. The day before, the dictator’s goons had kidnapped Professor Betito Quirós Guardia with the intention of killing him.
Shortly before four in the afternoon, several dozen people had begun to gather in the church atrium. At a distance, there were numerous Guardia Nacional cars and motorcycles, carrying men with combat gear. Also present werre countless G-2 agents, most of them in civilian clothes.
Their superiors, Julián Melo and Roberto Armijo, told us that “due to superior orders the demonstration could not be held.” When asked to show the legal order, their response was that “if there was a demonstration, they will pay the consequences.”
As we gathered together to march, more than 20 Transito police motorcycles advanced towards the public. Panic ensued. Protesters ran onto the sidewalks. The motorcycles stopped a few meters from where I was. Megaphone in hand, I walked towards the guardia to speak with them. In seconds, with an unprecedented ferocity, weighted hoses in hand, shouting a storm of vulgarities, which turned into shouts of: “Here’s Bernal! Hit him! Kill him!” They jumped on me supported by numerous G-2 and other armed plainclothesmen. They pushed each other in order to hit me.
The hoses, punches and kicks landed on me with brutal fury. There were too many. An immense stain of men in uniforms with hoses hit and hit with no qualms. Its victims fell, were lifted up and when they fell again they continued to hit, dragging the unfortunate ones from one side to the other.
One of those who were hit was Victor Navas King, who desperately intervened to try to get me out of the deadly circle. Also hit were Doña Elvia Lefevre de Wirz and another unknown lady. The voices of the executioners repeated: “Hit him, kill him!” The most ferocious of all, the one who commanded the aggression, was Fritz Gibson Parrish, known by the significant nickname “Sangre.”
Then I was taken unconcious to Headquarters and much later, to Santo Tomás Hospital, where the doctors gave me, for several days, the assistance that would save my life.
Those directly responsible for the attack were duly denounced publicly by me on numerous occasions and, finally, before the judicial authorities in 1990. Despite all the testimony, photographic, medical, video and other evidence, on February 2, 1994, the Second Court of Justice, “administering justice on behalf of the Republic and by authority of the Law”, endorsed the adage “summum ius, summa iniuria” [excessive law creates excessive justice], denied my appeal made and confirmed the decision to uphold the most absolute impunity.
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