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Latin America Data Base News Items [PeaceNet]
June 1987 -- July 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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
--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
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
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
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
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
--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
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)
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