US Embassy response to IHRC report on the Panama invasion case

Part of the devastation of El Chorrillo, where hundreds of people were killed.

American Embassy response to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission

on the Salas et al vs. United States report, about the 1989 US invasion of Panama
translation from the embassy’s Spanish original by Eric Jackson
graphics and captions chosen by the editor of The Panama News, not the embassy

We have seen the decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with regard to the case of Salas vs. United States. We deeply regret the loss of civilian lives during Operation Just Cause. The main legacy of Operation Just Cause is the development of one of the most robust democracies in the hemisphere.

After Operation Just Cause, which overthrew the brutal dictator Manuel Noriega, the government of the United States provided $420 million in economic support funds to help Panama. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) designated those funds for economic recovery, the reactivation of the private sector and the development of projects.

The development of projects included funds to replace housing and subsidies for households in the El Chorrillo district of Panama City and in other areas where the dwellings suffered damage during Operation Just Cause.

This past assistance is part of the broad bilateral alliance between Panama and the United States, aimed at achieving our common objective of a stable, secure, prosperous and democratic Panama.

Panamanians have many reasons to be proud of what they have achieved after living under the brutal dictatorship. It is enough to look at the consolidation of democracy, the free press, the peaceful transfer of power from one government to another, and the flourishing economy to notice the tangible example of Panama’s achievements.

The United States fully supports the Panama December 20 Commission that will investigate the events surrounding the military intervention. Panamanians have the right to know their history, which is why we are working on returning the documents retained during Operation Just Cause.

We are interested in seeing those documents in Panamanian hands because while they remain in the custody of the United States, they feed the myth that we are hiding their contents from public view.

mass grave
One of the mass graves. The best estimates are that just under 700 people, most of them noncombatant civilians, were killed in the 1989 invasion. The George H. W. Bush administration lied about the death toll, telling people in the USA and around the world that fewer than 200 people, most of them combatants, had died. To avoid press coverage of funerals, the Republican administration denied the families of slain Panamanians the right to claim the bodies and hold funerals. But US forces mistakenly buried two Americans with the hundreds of Panamanians and dug up the mass graves looking for these bodies. Bush’s lie gave rise to all manner of speculation and exaggerations, which still circulate to this day.

Tony and George
Tony and George: the military and political career of Manuel Antonio Noriega was, after all, nurtured by the United States. He was even taught how to terrorize people — at the School of the Americas they called it “psychological operations.”


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