Tuesday, February 19, 2008

U.S invasion of Panama

On 20 December 1989, twenty seven thousand U.S. personnel attacked Panama in order to eliminate Manuel Noriega. A few hours preceding the invasion, in a celebration that took place inside a U.S. military base in the former Panama Canal Zone, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as the new President of Panama. The invasion occurred ten years before the Panama Canal administration was to be turned over to Panamanian authorities, according to the timetable set up by the Torrijos Carter Treaties. After the invasion, Noriega sought asylum in the Vatican diplomatic mission represented by Monsignor Jose S. Laboa. To induce Noriega's surrender, US forces played loud music outside the embassy which reportedly included the song "Panama", by the 1980s rock group, Van Halen. After a few days, the embassy staff talked loudly for his benefit about the possibility that the mob surrounding them might break through and lynch Noriega. He surrendered to the American military shortly after, and was taken to Florida to be formally extradited and charged by U.S. federal authorities on drug and racketeering charges. He became eligible for parole on September 9, 2007, but remained in custody while his lawyers fought an extradition request from France. Critics have pointed out that many of Noriega's former allies remain in power in Panama.

According to the Torrijos Carter Treaties, the United States gave back all canal-related lands to Panama on 31 December 1999, but keeps the right to military intervention in the interest of its national security. Panama also gained control of canal-related buildings and infrastructure as well as full administration of the canal.

The people of Panama have already agreed to the expansion of the canal which, after construction, will allow for post-Panamax ships to travel through it, boosting the number of ships that currently use the canal.

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