U.S Intervention

U.S Intervention

As early as the 1500’s, the idea of constructing a ship canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans occurred to navigators and explorers, as the geographical form of the Central American Isthmus was becoming known. Many Isthmus surveys were made over the years. Opinion remained divided between a route through Panama and a longer route through Nicaragua. This divided opinion continued until the building of the Panama Canal was begun by the U.S. in 1904. By the end of the century the U.S. government would find themselves in an unnerving situation; concerned with the Panama Canal and other economic interests would unfortunately demonstrate unequaled force and damage to an innocent people with their focus on something other than what was in the sights of their rifles.

Panama was originally created by the US in 1903 so that they could build a canal between the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. Noriega, Panama’s defacto leader, was in league with the US, the CIA, and the Drug Enforcement Agency until 1986. In June 1987 violent popular demonstrations erupted in the streets, due to reports of election fraud and Noriega’s involvement in major human rights abuses. In February 1988, Noriega was charged by the US courts with aiding in the trafficking of drugs between Columbia and the US. The president of Panama subsequently fired Noriega from commander of the Panamanian Defense Force. The National Assembly replaced the president with a supporter of Noriega. Noriega himself although still sustained most of the power within the Panama Defense Force. The U.S. refused to recognize the new president and placed massive economic pressure on Panama by cutting off U.S. aid, freezing all Panamanian corporations.

Noriega was a corrupt dictator heading an efficient narco-militaristic regime in Panama. He was involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, and the ruthless oppression of his people. He also systematically violated the American-Panamanian Canal treaties and harassed U.S. forces and institutions in Panama. The problems the U.S. recognized in Noriega began in 1985 as an internal Panamanian affair. Between 1985 and the 1989 U.S. invasion, it went through a series of five mini-crises. These included the murder of Hugo Spadaraora, a physician but also a revolutionary, a guerrilla fighter, and a political activist. The Herrara confessions were brought forth by Colonel Roberto Herrera who was to replace Noriega after he was to retire in 1987. After Noriega announced he would remain in control Herrera in retaliation publicly revealed details about Noriega’s crimes as well as accused him of orchestrating the murder of Spadafora. A turning point occurred in February 1988, when the United States declared drugs to be the major threat to American society at the same time that Noriega was indicted in Florida for drug trafficking and money laundering.

The Reagan and Bush administrations hoped for and peferred a Panamanian solution, like a coup, an election that would end Noriega’s rule, or a popular uprising similar to that of the uprising that dumped Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

On October 1st 1989, the wife of Moises Giroldi, a member of Noriega’s inner circle who had crushed the 1988 Macias coup attempt, informed Southcom officers that her husband was planning a nonviolent coup against Noriega and that he wanted limited U.S. help. Giroldi’s coup took place on October 3rd 1989. Mrs. Giroldi and her children were given shelter, the U.S. forces blocked the requested roads and for a few hours Noriega was a prisoner in the hands of Giroldi, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to retire. Supposedly several rebel leaders, but not Giroldi, were then prepared to turn Noriega over to U.S. authorities, but in some way Noriega was able to contact his special unit, Battalion 2000. The Battalion crushed the rebellion using other Noriega loyalists. Giroldi was later severely tortured and killed as were several other coup leaders.

The two administrations used covert operations to help start popular uprisings and coups and also assisted the opposition in the 1989 Panamanian elections. None of these efforts were successful, and the United States decided to use other measures to remove Noriega such as negotiations, economic and diplomatic sanctions, and military threats. These attempts also failed, partly due to mixed messages, operational restrictions, and incompetent American policies and plans. During