US Invasion to Panama. Part 1-Background

Panama, It is the name of a small country in Central America bordering Costa Rica to the west & Colombia to the east. Although only small in size, Panama is very famous in the world because of the canal (channel) that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean in the country. Although on one side of the channel helped boost the economy & popularity of Panama, on the other side of the canal also made the country had fallen into various turbulences.

Of the many upheavals that occurred as a result of the dispute over the Panama Canal, one of the most famous was when Panama was attacked by US forces in 1989 – 1990. The raid has also been touted as the largest deployment of US troops to other countries since the War Vietnam that ended in 1975. As a result of the military attack, thousands of Panamanians had lost their lives and the country also had a free fall into the social crisis for several years afterward.

Panama region has long been a target of its own interests for the US because the US sees Panama region suitable for use as a place to build a connecting channel between the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean. Panama region itself since the late 19th century is still a part of Colombia. When the Colombian parliament rejected the US desire to own some of Panama’s land as a forerunner to the construction of the Panama Canal, the United States later supported Panama’s pro-independence group. Tail, since 1903 Panama became a new state separate from Colombia & the US began to put troops permanently in the country.

In 1914, the Panama Canal that had been built by the United States since 1901 was finally opened to the public where the rights of the Canal management became US property. The territory surrounding the Canal also becomes a kind of overseas territory for the US where Panamanians wishing to enter the area around the Canal must obtain permission from US forces in the area. Not only that, workers in the Panama Canal who are US citizens also receive a salary 2 times higher than local employees.

US Army during invasion to Panama (image from

In 1968, the Panamanian national army led by General Omar Torrijos who had many supporters of the native Panamanian population carried out a coup d’etat & managed to gain the reins of Panama’s leadership. The rise of Torrijos as the leader of Panama followed by the increased equity of the people of Panama & the strength of the drive to nationalize the Panama Canal. The desire began to find a bright spot after in 1977, Torrijos & Jimmy Carter – the then US president – signed an agreement under which in the agreement, the United States agreed to surrender the canal management rights to the hands of Panama at the end of 1999.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States where Reagan was committed to preventing the cancellation of the Canal management right into the hands of Panama. Reagan’s Reagan administration had attempted to invite Torrijos again, but Torrijos refused. Unexpectedly, in 1983 Torrijos died from a plane crash. The sudden death of Torrijos then raises the notion that he was deliberately killed by the United States. Beyond the mystery surrounding the death of Torrijas, after his death, General Manuel Noriega – Torrijos’s subordinate close to the US – rose to become the new leader of Panama & Panama’s relationship with the US began to close again.

New intimate relationship re-established between the two did not last long. Since 1986, US relations with the Noriega regime in Panama began to crack after the US asked Noriega to step down following reports that Noriega secretly supplied information to a communist-run Cuban state and was involved in the Iran-Contra arms sales scandal. The United States also plans to prosecute Noriega for alleged involvement in money laundering and drug trafficking activities. But the United States at that time found it difficult to attract Noriega to the United States for trial because of weak agreement between the US and Panama with the extradition.

Interesting & noteworthy is according to an article from the Third World Traveler website that quotes from Noam Chomsky’s book – an anti-Israeli Jewish intellectual who is very vocal in criticizing US foreign policy – entitled “What Uncle Sam Really Wants”, the US actually already knows that Noriega has been involved in money laundering and drug trafficking activities since 1972. But the US did not take any action at the time because Noriega thought it could be used as a US puppet in stemming the spread of communism in Central America.

Manuel Noriega

When Noriega rejected calls from the United States to resign, the United States began to impose an economic embargo on Panama with the aim of paralyzing the country’s economy. Furthermore, the US also supported a number of military coup attempts in which all attempts at the coup ended in failure. On the other hand, Noriega began to respond back to US pressure by intimidating US soldiers & residents living in Panama. Frustrated by Noriega’s attitude, the United States began preparing its troops to attack Panama & depose Noriega of the Panama government seat by force.

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