History, U.S. Invasion
Guillermo Endara, Panama invasion, Panamanians, trade embargo, international loans
The U.S. government gradually increased pressure on Noriega, trying to make him give up power. The United States imposed a trade embargo, vetoed international loans to Panama, and finally withheld its annual canal payments. In 1988 a U.S. court in Miami, Florida, indicted Noriega on drug-related charges. Panamanian president Eric Delvalle tried to dismiss Noriega but instead was removed from office. A presidential election was held in 1989, but Noriega nullified the results when the vote count showed that the opposition candidate, Guillermo Endara, was winning. Tensions rose between Noriega’s forces and U.S. troops based in Panama.
Finally, President George Bush decided to invade Panama, with the stated goals of arresting Noriega to face drug charges, of restoring democracy, and of protecting American lives. On December 20, 1989, U.S. troops invaded in the largest U.S. military operation since the Vietnam War (1959-1975). More than 27,000 troops took part, including 13,000 already stationed in Panama. With an overwhelming force of tanks, aircraft, and high-technology weapons, the U.S. forces defeated Panamanian troops within days and eventually captured Noriega, who was taken to the United States for trial.
The Panama invasion proved traumatic and controversial. It violated both international law and U.S. government policy against intervening in another nation’s internal affairs. Yet it was welcomed by many Panamanians as the only way to rid the country of a dictator that the United States had supported for many years. Noriega’s headquarters in Panama City was destroyed, but the surrounding poor neighborhood of El Chorillo caught fire and burned to the ground, leaving thousands homeless. Several hundred Panamanians, many of them civilians, died in the fighting. It was the low point in 86 years of rocky relations between Panama and the United States.
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