All Material Copyright by Latin America Data Base. Latin America Data Base News Items Peac

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

All Material Copyright by Latin America Data Base. Latin America Data Base News Items [PeaceNet] June 1987 -- July 1987 June 1987 NOTES: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN PANAMANIAN POLITICAL CONFLICT June 13: Former Panamanian Ambassador to the US and influential business tycoon, Gabriel Lewis Galindo, fled his country, after he allegedly received threats late Friday from military intelligence chief, Col. Bernardo Barrera. Lewis met with US Ambassador Arthur Davis, Chamber of Commerce president Aurelio Barria and chief of the US Southern Command, Gen. Fred Woerner before he left. June 15: Short-term arrests and street scuffles between opposition protesters and government troops continued, while a general strike called by middle-class business and civic groups collapsed in its fifth day. The Interior Ministry announced that no international news publications will be allowed to circulate in Panama without being reviewed first by government censors. Among the publications affected were the MIAMI HERALD, whose international edition is printed in Panama, the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE and the NEW YORK TIMES. Four independent Panamanian news publications, including the opposition daily LA PRENSA, remained closed after the government imposed censorship on them June 11. The opposition National Civic Crusade, led by the Chamber of Commerce, called for businesses to open briefly this morning to pay employes then to close at midday. But banks and retail stores remained open in the afternoon. US Embassy officials received an avalanche of phone calls from Panamanians seeking assistance in finding detained relatives. Ambassador Arthur Davis has intervened to secure the release of a number of detainees. --Panamanian businessman Gabriel Lewis Galindo arrived in Washington to begin lobbying on behalf of the opposition to the government. June 16: In Panama City, the government-controlled National Assembly decreed that nine opposition political leaders, including a former president, and prominent businessmen had committed "high treason" during a week of protests against Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega by conspiring to overthrow the government. Among those declared "traitors" was former president Nicolas Ardito Barletta. Ardito Barletta said last week that Noriega forced him out of office in 1985 after he demanded an investigation of the murder of Hugo Spadafora, a popular Noriega critic who was found beheaded. Also named in the decree were Ricardo Arias Calderon, head of the opposition Christian Democratic Party, and businessman Gabriel Lewis Galindo, a former ambassador to Washington who fled Panama June 13 after allegedly receiving threats from the military. Other businessmen named included Federico Humbert, a top officer of the Banco General, Panama's largest bank; Roberto Motta, president of the Banco Continental; Fernando Eleta, owner of a Panamanian television station; and Roberto Aleman, president of the national brewery and another former ambassador to the United States. The decree is not legally binding, but could lead to arrests if the government pursues it. The assembly charged that the businessmen tried to impose a government that would allow the United States to retain the Panama Canal after the year 2000, when, by treaty, it will be taken over by Panama. June 18: Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Dante Fascell called on Gen. Manuel Noriega, head of Panama's armed forces, to remove himself from politics and reestablish civil law in that country. In a declaration delivered to members of the Hemispheric Affairs subcommittee, Fascell also called on the Panamanian government to reestablish constitutional guarantees at the earliest possible time, and to move up the date of elections. Richard Holwill, Deputy Asst. Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, told the subcommittee that the civilian government of President Eric Arturo Del Valle is effectively dominated by the military. However, he said, the US has not discarded the possibility that Noriega may yet support democratic reforms. He assured congresspersons that the US will maintain a neutral position on Panama's domestic conflicts, although Washington supports the establishment of a full and functional democracy. The political turmoil of the past week in Panama followed upon disclosures by retired Col. Roberto Diaz Herrera, former chief of staff, denouncing Noriega for electoral fraud in 1984 in favor of Nicolas Ardito Barletta, and accusing him of complicity in the deaths of Gen. Omar Torrijos and the anti-government leader Hugo Spadafora. Holwill said Diaz Herrera's denunciations reinforced long-existing suspicions that Noriega and other members of the armed forces had been involved in these and other illicit activities. Diaz Herrera admitted that half of his luxurious home was paid for with money received from the sale of Panamanian passports to Cubans hoping to enter the United States. This type of corruption, he added, is typical within the military hierarchy. He called on the US to support his claims against Noriega in assisting Panamanians to investigate relevant facts. Fascell said Panama is marching backwards at a time when democracy is advancing in the hemisphere. Events in Panama, he said, serve to escalate tensions in the entire region. He called on governments in Central America and throughout Latin America to convince Noriega that repression is not the appropriate response to political problems, and that a shift toward democracy will reestablish the confidence of the Panamanian people in their government. Holwill said the protests, organized by a coalition of civic and business groups, opposition parties, and the Catholic Church, demonstrate a widespread resentment against the government headed by a civilian but dominated by the military. He continued by stating that there are no rapid, easy or simple solutions to the problems in Panama, adding that the solution will come only through a strengthening of civilian institutions. Asked about a statement by Diaz Herrera that the CIA was involved with Noriega in the death of Gen. Torrijos, Holwill said that to the best of his knowledge, this accusation was a total lie, and intended to defame the United States. Torrijos was killed in a 1980 [sic; it was 1981...klk] plane crash. According to Diaz Herrera, a bomb placed in the plane was detonated by remote control. At that time, Noriega was number three in the military hierarchy. With the death of Torrijos, second-in-command Gen. Ruben Dario Paredes acted as president, and Noriega was moved up to second place in the hiearchy. Paredes, now retired, has told reporters he favors a full investigation of Diaz Herrera's accusations. (Various reports, PRENSA LATINA, WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) PANAMANIAN GOVERNMENT ORDERS INDEFINITE EXTENSION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY On June 19 Panamanian President Eric Arturo del Valle and his cabinet issued a decree for an indefinite extension of the state of emergency which went into effect June 11. The earlier decree was for a 10-day period; extensions were subject to ratification by the National Assembly. Debate in the assembly began June 20. The pro- government assembly coalition, with 45 of 67 seats, has enough votes to rubber-stamp the order, but not enough to curtail debate. The 22 opposition legislators planned to prolong their speeches past the midnight deadline of the original state of emergency decree. The state of emergency, which suspended constitutional guarantees, including the right to public protest and free expression, and instituted nearly complete censorship of independent news, was imposed after two days of rioting sparked by accusations by retired Col. Roberto Diaz Herrera that Panamanian armed forces chief Gen. Manuel Noriega was involved in murder, corruption and electoral fraud. The emergency order coincided with a three-day fact- finding visit by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on western hemisphere affairs. Dodd visited the closed opposition daily LA PRENSA June 19 in what he called a gesture of support for press freedom. The rural home of Bertilo Mejia Ortega, leader of the five Christian Democrats in the National Assembly, was ransacked on the evening of June 19, Mejia said. Intruders destroyed furniture and left Mejia's possessions soaked in gasoline piled in his living room with a boxes of matches on top, apparently as a warning. National university rector Abdiel Adames said classes would resume June 22 after a two-week suspension. (PRENSA LATINA, 06/20/87; WASHINGTON POST, 06/21/87) --Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega met with Panamanian President Eric Arturo Delvalle to discuss faltering Central American peace efforts. After the meeting, Nicaraguan officials in Panama City, Managua and Washington announced Ortega had agreed to participate in the August 6-7 summit meeting. The Nicaraguan president arrived at a military airfield in Panama accompanied by Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto and other officials. A reporter asked him if he believed Panama's government had been discredited by recent protests. "The discredited one is the government of the United States, which continually meddles in Latin American countries," Ortega replied. He asserted that the US was working against Panama because of Panamanian peace efforts in Central America. Ortega said the US "is not interested in peace" and charged that Washington was behind the postponement of the June summit. Ortega met for three hours with his Panamanian counterpart, and reportedly said he believed the US was plotting to depose both Delvalle and Panamanian Defense Forces commander in chief, Gen. Manual Antonio Noriega. "There is a full-scale conspiracy to crush them, and to throw out the Torrijos-Carter treaties at the same time," he said. --State Department spokesperson Phyllis Oakley said the Department welcomed Ortega's decision to attend the Central American summit in August. She said Nicaragua's prior refusal to attend had threatened to undermine the peace process. "This reversal will allow the process to get back on track. June 25: At a press conference in Panama City, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, told reporters that President Ortega's visit in Panama City was a resounding success. He said the upcoming summit is a reaffirmation of the diplomacy and objectives of Contadora and its Support Group. (Various reports, REUTERS, PRENSA LATINA, AP, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) PANAMA: GEN. NORIEGA ON DEFENSIVE; HOUSE RESOLUTION ON U.S. POSITION According to the WASHINGTON POST (06/24/87), for the first time since assuming his position as commander-in-chief of Panama's Defense Forces in 1983, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega was on the defensive last week, seen in his "uncharacteristic recklessness." The general attempted to mobilize support among leftists by accusing US conservatives of fomenting unrest to thwart the process of turning over control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian government by the year 2000. "But the charge drew only lukewarm support and alienated him from Panama's most influential business and Roman Catholic Church leaders." In the upheaval over the last two weeks, many more Panamanians turned against the government Noriega controls than in the riots of 1984 and 1985. Until recently, the opposition had been limited mostly to right-of-center, middle-class political parties sarcastically labeled rabiblancos, or "white tails," by the largely black working poor. In a 1968 coup, the 20,000-troop Defense Forces seized power. Then, in 1979, widely admired nationalist leader Gen. Omar Torrijos announced a Defense Forces "retreat" to make way for an elected civilian president. Torrijos' popularity reached a high point when he signed the 1977 treaties with Washington to turn over the canal to Panama by the year 2000. Torrijos was killed in a 1981 plane crash. Noriega is suspected of having rigged the May 1984 elections against veteran politician Arnulfo Arias, who would have named a new commander-in-chief. In September 1985, Noriega then ousted the president he installed, Nicolas Ardito Barletta, for seeking an investigation of the murder of Hugo Spadafora, a popular figure who spoke out against Noriega. Retired colonel Roberto Diaz Herrera, Noriega's chief of staff until he was forcibly retired June 1, has admitted that he bribed polling place magistrates to ensure the victory of Noriega's candidate. The accusations publicized by Diaz that Noriega was directly involved in murder and corruption cases ignited the riots that began June 9. In a communique last week the 11 members of the Catholic Bishops Conference called for immediate measures to establish "a real autonomy of civilian power and the progressive return of the Defense Forces to their appropriate tasks." Noriega remained silent about the church's statement. A government censor removed the communique from the Sunday edition of the opposition daily LA PRENSA, the first issue of paper to be published since censorship was imposed June 11. A radio station Noriega controls called the Panamanian archbishop a "boozer" and a "gringo," a slang word for American. The general also encouraged the National Assembly to level charges that nine prominent Panamanian businessmen and politicians had conspired with US conservatives to overthrow President Eric Arturo Delvalle. All those mentioned privately denied any plot ever existed. Three of those named--lawyer Roberto Aleman, financier Federico Humbert and banker Roberto Motta--went public with their outrage, arguing that they were not even involved in any anti- Noriega protests. The attack on some of Panama's most prosperous executives cemented the views of many in the highest business echelons who long had cooperated with Noriega but turned away from him with the recent disturbances. Noriega is expected to turn now for support to his leftist political forces, primarily the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PDR), which was created by Torrijos in 1979 as a party supporting the military. Party followers portrayed the crisis as a clash between poor working blacks and the "white tails." They accused the middle-class opposition of pushing to regain the power they lost two decades ago to Torrijos and his supporters among the poor. PRD leaders made it clear their backing this time is going to cost the government money. In the Panama City slum of San Miguelito, rioting erupted earlier this month for the first time in years. Worried party leaders who run the town hall there said bluntly they are demanding $1.3 million public funds immediately to create jobs and put up housing. --At a June 24 hearing, the House subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for a democratic and civilian government in Panama, a lifting of the current state of emergency, free and fair elections, and an investigation of the accusations against Gen. Noriega. Next, the resolution reiterates US intentions to comply with the 1977 treaties under which the Panama Canal will be turned over to Panama City in 1999. The resolution will now be presented for a vote by the full House Foreign Affairs Committee. U.S. SENATE APPROVES RESOLUTION ON PANAMA; PANAMA CITY RESPONDS WITH INDIGNATION, CALLS OAS MEETING June 26: The Senate approved by a vote of 84 to 2 a resolution calling on the Panamanian government to restore constitutional guarantees suspended in a state of emergency in force since June 11, arrange free elections and submit the the military to civilian rule. The Senate resolution calls on the Panamanian government to conduct an independent investigation of persons accused of electoral fraud, drug trafficking and murder. In this regard, the resolution suggests that commander-in-chief of the Pamananian Defense Forces, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega and other government officials be removed from their respective positions during the investigation. Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Carl Evans (D-Mich.) proposed an amendment to the resolution to make more explicit Washington's intention to deliver the Panama Canal to Panamanian control in 1999, while also eliminating the text referring to Gen. Noriega and removal of persons from their current positions pending the conclusion of the "independent investigation." The amendment was not approved. Dodd and Evans cast the two dissenting votes. The resolution, similar to one approved by oral vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, makes note of the fact that Noriega's military power dominates the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of government. [The current state of tension between Washington and Panama City is the most serious since 1964 when Panama broke diplomatic relations with the United States. Pent-up resentment against the United States surfaced when US authorities prevented Panamanian students from raising their national flag alongside the US flag at a high school in the Canal Zone. "Within hours, 30,000 Panamanians were in the streets of Panama City, confronting US troops had had orders to fire warning shorts before shooting to kill. The riot soon spread to Colon, on the Atlantic side of the Zone, then deep into the interior...By the time this explosion of anti-Yankee fury was contained, over $2 million in property had been burned or otherwise destroyed-- almost all of it American. Twenty-eight people had been killed, 300 wounded, and 500 arrested, almost all of them Panamanian." (From NACLA Report on the Americas, September/October 1979, p. 13.) Of the 28 persons killed, 22 were Panamanian citizens.] June 27: In a statement released by the office of the presidency in Panama City, attributed to Panamanian President Eric Arturo Delvalle, the Senate resolution was described as "inconceivable," "inacceptable," and an "intolerable intervention in Panama's domestic affairs." "For the Panamanian government, it is inconceivable that the United States intends to deliberately dictate policy to a foreign government." This action, said the statement, is "openly contradictory" to principles of independence and liberty contained in the US constitution. The US action, according to Delvalle, "merits repudiation by citizens of all free nations throughout the world." --Panamanian Ambassador to the US, Dominador K. Bazan, returned to Panama City, on orders by President Delvalle. June 29: The Panamanian National Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the US Senate for its criticism of Panamanian strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega and calling on President Delvalle to retaliate by expelling US Ambassador Arthur H. Davis. The expulsion was requested on the basis of Davis's "interventionist" behavior during recent disturbances in Panama following the disclosure of accusations against Noriega. According to the US Embassy, Davis met with government officials and members of the political opposition in an attempt "to help in the return to normalcy." US State Department officials said that it would take a day or two to gauge whether the move portends an escalation of tensions between the United States and Panama or whether it was what one official called "some political breast beating" orchestrated by Noriega's supporters. The assembly adopted its resolution by a vote of 39 to 0. None of the 22 opposition deputies attended the session. State Department officials noted that any decision to expel Davis would have to be made by Noriega. Davis, a political appointee, is a Colorado businessman with extensive experience in Latin America. --State Department spokesman Charles Redman reported that Secretary of State Shultz had called on the Panamanian government to lift the state of emergency and declared that the United States could not be neutral in matters concerning the necessity of democracy. Redman reiterated that the United States will comply with the 1977 treaties with Panama by delivering the Panama Canal to Panamanian control in late 1999. He then told reporters that the US cannot be neutral regarding the necessity of complete support for democratic procedures. This principle, he said, was applied in relations with all nations in Latin America, without exception. Next, Redman stated that Shultz supported the Senate resolution only in part. He said the Department was in agreement with the resolution regarding support for democratic procedures and repudiation of the suspension of civil rights in the recent state of emergency. "We regret, however, that the Senate opted to reject the amendment proposed by Senators Dodd and Evans." Redman noted that a June 29 statement by Foreign Minister Abadia to Secretary Shultz said that his government continues to maintain cordial relations with the United States. June 30: Panama requested a review by the political council of the Organization of American States (OAS) of the circumstances provoking tensions in US-Panamanian relations. The council meeting was scheduled to take place July 1 in Washington, 2 p.m. local time. The Panamanian Ambassador Roberto Leyton said he wished to inform the council of his government's objections to the US Senate's resolution. Specifically, he said the resolution's suggestion that Gen. Noriega and other persons implicated in illegal acts be removed from their positions pending the conclusion of an "independent investigation" is improper. Such matters, he said, are under the exclusive competence of the Panamanian government's internal juridical order. OAS norms establish that any member of the organization can request a meeting of the council. Leyton is expected to go beyond the Senate action, in denouncing "interventionist" activities by US Ambassador Arthur Davis. (Various reports, AP, Agence France Presse, Washington Post) July 1987 MAJOR LATIN AMERICAN NATIONS SUPPORT PANAMANIAN CLAIMS AGAINST UNITED STATES On July 1, in a special session of the Organization of American States (OAS) political commission called by Panama, Latin American nations issued a vote of overwhelming support for Panama City's charges against US intervention. Seventeen members cast votes in favor of the Panamanian position, eight abstained, and one against (the United States). Favoring the resolution denouncing US actions were Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Abstentions were cast by Antigua- Barbuda, Costa Rica, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Santa Lucia, San Cristobal and Trinidad-Tobago. The OAS Ambassador from Panama, Roberto Leyton, claimed the current political crisis in his country had been fomented in part, by the United States in its efforts to create a theater of war in Central America. In this context, he said, the transfer of the Panama Canal in 1999 may be aborted. Leyton opened the debate saying that the Senate resolution was preceded by an increase in the US military presence in Panama, without authorization by Panamanian authorities, and in open violation of treaties regarding the transfer of the Canal. Chile joined the Contadora nations (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela) in expressing concern over the June 26 resolution by the US Senate calling on Panama City to remove head of the Panamanian Defense Forces, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, from his post during an "independent investigation" of charges against him and others. The Mexican Ambassador, Antonio de Icaza, said his government becomes concerned when declarations and resolutions of an interventionist type are produced on the basis of unconfirmed accusations, and selectively used in a process or context of distinformation. Such resolutions, he said, are suspected as part of an intention to modify domestic and foreign policies of sovereign countries. US Ambassador William Pryce said such expressions by the Congress are common practice in the life of democratic societies and contain no element of coercion. Nor are such congressional resolutions acts of US intervention, he said, but rather should be interpreted as expressions of US concern over the situation of human rights in Panama or in whatever part of the world. He said no recent actions by Washington indicate plans to renege on treaties to transfer the Canal to Panama in 1999. Venezuelan Ambassador Edilberto Moreno said the Senate resolution has a special nuance, since similar processes by Latin American governments do not exist which in some way seek to co-sponsor the foreign policy of the United States. Argentine Ambassador Gaston de Pratgay stated that while the congressional resolution does not signify specific actions taken by the US government, it can serve to alter the climate of relations between the two countries. He added that in terms of the Canal treaties, "we are solidly behind Panama." The Brazilian Ambassador to the OAS, Dario Castro Alves, said only that his government supported Panama in an expression of general Latin American solidarity. Colombian Ambassador Leopoldo Villar Borda said his country has emphasized on numerous occasions its support of the principle of non-intervention, and that the vote in favor of Panama's claims is yet another reaffirmation of this principle. The Peruvian Ambassador, Luis Gonzalez Posada, stated that in casting its vote for continued solidarity with the Panamanian people, Peru wishes to point out that full implementation of the Canal treaties is in the interest of all nations in the hemisphere. Uruguayan Ambassador Alfredo Platas said his country reiterates its traditional appeal for the fulfillment of the principles contained in the OAS Charter, and hopes that good relations among its member nations prevail over "circumstantial disagreements." Ambassador from Chile, Javier Illanes, said that in same fashion as "so many times in the past, today we condemn any interventionist practice, whatever its motivation," since such practices violate both norms and morality of international conduct. The Paraguayan ambassador to the OAS declined to participate in the debate claiming "lack of instructions" from his government. Ambassadors from Antigua, Dominica, El Salvador, San Vicente, the Grenadines, and Surinam were absent. (AP, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 07/01/87) PANAMANIAN POLITICAL CRISIS: SUMMARY OF EVENTS, 6/30-7/6/87 Since June 30, anti-US demonstrations have become commonplace in Panama, alongside continued protests against the government and commander-in-chief Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega. In addition to questions of the removing the military from direct or indirect control over Panamanian domestic and foreign policy, and charges of corruption, murder and electoral fraud against military leaders, Panamanians are now also debating whether the US is interfering unduly in their country's domestic affairs. The Panamanian government's irritation with the US erupted last month, when officials in Washington began publicly criticizing Gen. Noriega and urging an investigation into charges of corruption and political violence levied against him. The anger increased after the Senate approved a resolution June 26 calling on Gen. Noriega and others implicated by the charges to "relinquish their duties" pending the outcome of an independent inquiry. The Panamanian military command quickly condemned the resolution as interventionist, and the Legislative Assembly passed a resolution accusing the US of "economic blackmail." It said the US Ambassador, Arthur Davis, was "leading an internal conspiracy" to overthrow the Panamanian government. Ambassador Davis has become a personal target for pro- government politicians and commentators, and the legislative assembly has demanded that he be expelled from the country. June 30: More than 100 people, many of them government employees, threw stones at the US Embassy and splattered it with red paint. Government ministers and the head of the PRD were part of the crowd. Anti-US demonstrations that day in Panama City involved about 5,000 people. July 1: The State Department announced the temporary closing of the US consulate and a library operated by the US Information Service in Panama City. A State Department spokesman said police had been withdrawn from areas around the embassy and had left it unprotected as demonstrators approached. State Department spokesman Charles E. Redman said the United States protested "in the strongest possible terms" demonstrations, including high-ranking Panamanian officials and political supporters of Noriega. He added that the incident "will have a significant and negative impact on relations between the United States and Panama." --A strong signal from Washington was sent in an evening speech to the Washington World Affairs Council by Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs. After repeating the US position of neutrality and asserting that "Panama's solutions must be home-grown," Abrams added: "The old complacency inside and outside of Panama over the inevitable dominance of the Panamanian Defense Forces in the nation's politics is gone...Military leaders must remove their institution from politics, end any appearance of corruption and modernize their forces to carry out their large and important military tasks in defense of the (Panama) canal." --Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid, an opposition patriarch, assured reporters that opposition leaders "are not receiving or asking for help from the US government." --The government has called a rally for July 9 in which, according to the pro-government newspaper LA REPUBLICA, Panamanians will demonstrate "against the foreign forces which are striking against our sovereignty and free self- determination." --Violent demonstrations against the government and the military erupted again, resulting in the destruction of two political party offices and automobiles in the capital city. According to witnesses, the main office of the ruling Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) was damaged by rock throwing and at least two government vehicles were burned. A few hours later, the office of the opposition Christian Democrat Party (PDC) was burned by unknown assailants. --Gen. Noriega told supporters at a pro- government rally in San Miguelito, on the outskirts of Panama City, that he would not step down as commander-in-chief of the Panamanian Defense Forces. He said the recent accusations by the US were not "fortuitous or random," but rather are meant to prevent the transfer of the Canal to Panama. --The National Civilian Crusade said in a statement it would continue promoting civil disobedience including tax withholding, pot banging and horn honking two times daily, and brief black-outs at 9 p.m. every evening. July 2: Demonstrators tore down and smashed a 40-year-old statue of Franklin D. Roosevelt in downtown Panama City. Banners containing slogans such as, "We reject the United States Campaign Against Panama," and "Panama Yes, Intervention NO," adorn storefronts and fences in the capital and other cities. --Opposition newspapers had been reopened this week after repeal of a state of emergency imposed June 11. On Thursday, the government ordered a radio station closed down on the ground that it was guilty of "criminal activities." --The PRD called a meeting, attended by 3,000 politicians and supporters, at a theater in downtown Panama City. Party Deputy Secretary General Ramiro Vazquez warned that new International Monetary Fund (IMF) measures affecting living conditions of the poor will not be tolerated, and called for foreign debt moratorium. Vazquez said the any political "rectification process" in Panama has to be a concrete one, wherein the majority becomes empowered, wherein it obtains increasing participation in productive enterprises. Trade union leader Reinaldo Rivera said the present crisis was an outcome of abandoning the Torrijos method of dialogue and permanent consultation with the bourgeoisie. This method, he said, has been replaced by concessions to the elite and US financial institutions at the expense of the majority of Panamanians. July 3: In the afternoon, business leaders in the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture called a general strike in Panama after a fire they said was set by a pro-government mob destroyed an important commercial complex in the capital on July 2. The complex is owned by the Eisenmann family, which has opposed the military- backed regime. Roberto Eisenmann, head of the family, is the publisher of LA PRENSA, the country's leading anti-government newspaper. He is in exile in the United States. The business leaders called on Panamanians not to work Friday afternoon, Saturday or Sunday morning. The Chamber condemned "the criminal attitude of authorities that have the duty of protecting us." Later the National Private Enterprise Council (CONEP) and the Business Executives Association (ADEPE) joined the Chamber in calling for a strike. Many stores closed at midday to show support for the strike. US military personnel were advised to avoid downtown shopping areas for the duration of the strike. --At least three university students were receiving medical treatment after being wounded by gunfire as the police suppressed anti-government protests at the University of Panama. University authorities, fearing more unrest, announced that the campus would be closed until Monday. --Protest demonstrations against US interference were reported in Chiqui, Bocas del Toro, Azuero, Cocole and other population centers. July 4: A leftist wing of the PRD, calling itself the Torrijos Vanguard Movement (MT), issued a manifesto stating that the Movement is open to participation from "all social sectors interested in defending national interests." The communique said the MT's objectives are majority participation in the economic and political life of the country, price controls for basic commodities, termination of the process to privatize state companies, a national economic plan to meet employment and housing needs of the poor, and a program to monitor US fulfillment of the Panama Canal treaties. The manifesto also affirms that the US Senate resolution was part of a broader campaign to discredit Panama in retribution for its refusal to support the Reagan administration's Central America policy, and particularly the isolation of Nicaragua. July 5: A call for dialogue with the opposition was issued by President Eric Arturo Delvalle. In a nationally broadcast speech, he urged Panamanians to "unite in the spirit of patriotism." "Let us call a truce in our passions," Delvalle said. "We will never be able to find the correct solutions through discord and hateful recrimination." Delvalle also said that "grave charges" of corruption, electoral fraud and political murder made against Noriega "demand a quick and effective investigation so the facts can be determined." --In a statement after Delvalle's speech, the National Civilian Crusade, an ad hoc group directing the opposition protest, said that Panamanian authorities were not competent to investigate allegations against Noriega. "The courts offer no guarantees for Panamanians and have no credibility in our eyes," the statement said. --PRD Secretary General Romulo Escobar Betancourt accused US conservatives of attempting to oust Noriega in order to terminate the nationalist process initiated in 1986 by the late Gen. Omar Torrijos. Betancourt said that after Noriega rejected pressures by the US government to participate in efforts to isolate Nicaragua, a campaign to discredit the general began. July 6: Anti-government leaders in Panama have rejected a call for compromise with the regime, insisting that they^W+1 agree to talks only to discuss the departure of the military commander, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega. --Roberto Diaz Herrera, the recently retired colonel who made the charges, was called to a government office to give evidence in the morning hours, but he did not appear. Instead, he issued a statement naming five of his former bodyguards as having been present when officers were said to have altered tallies of votes cast in the 1984 presidential election. He suggested they be interrogated. --Asillino Boyd, a former Panamanian Foreign Minister met with Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, in an effort to diffuse mounting tension between the Reagan administration and Panama. "We had a quarrel and have to patch things up," said Adolfo Arrocha, Panama's charge d'affaires. "The fact that the Panamanian government has sent someone here is a sign that we don't want bickering with the US to continue." According to a State Department official, Boyd expressed a desire to bring the relationship between the two countries back to normal, while Abrams stressed "support for a series of specific steps that would bring free elections leading to a fully functioning democracy." Boyd, who is expected to spend more that a week in Washington, will also try to persuade senators to change their positions on recent resolutions that reproach Panama for failing to put through democratic reforms, Arrocha said. "They were slaps to Panama in the most unfair way," said Arrocha, who has served as Panama's highest-ranking diplomat in the US since Ambassador Dominator Kaiser Bazan was recalled last month for "consultations" in protest against administration criticism of the government. (Various reports, NOTICIAS ARGENTINAS, PRENSA LATINA, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST) ============================================= from The NY Transfer BBS 718-448-2358 Source: NY OnLine BBS 718-852-2662

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank