Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 1989


December 20, 1989


The U.S. invasion of Panama today in an effort to remove strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega will have global repercussions, a Kansas congressman and Kansas University professors said.

President Bush said the primary goals were to capture Gen. Noriega, install an elected government, protect American life and safeguard the Panama Canal.

U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery, R-Kan., said in an interview from his home in Topeka that he supports Bush's decision to break Noriega's grip on Panama.

"As far as I'm concerned, Manuel Noriega is a drug-dealing thug, a dictator who seized power by ignoring the outcome of an election," Slattery said.

"The president of the United States made a decision that American lives were in jeopardy and to use military force. Nobody is in a position to second guess that.

"HOPEFULLY, the country will unite behind the objective, which is to get rid of Noriega. We shouldn't come home until we've achieved that objective," he said.

Robert Tomasek, professor of political science, said that while a majority of the 2.2 million Panamanians oppose Noriega, many will be offended by the assault.

"There will be a lot of criticism from Latin America," he said. "They abhor intervention. There will also be criticism from Russia and Third World countries."

Jon Vincent, director of the Center for Latin American Studies and professor of Spanish and Portuguese, said he was troubled by the use of U.S. troops.

"A big problem is our friends in Latin America. I suspect some of the more independent-minded countries in Latin America will not think that this is a smart thing to do.

"THE REAL question now is what's going to happen to the military (Panamanian Defense Forces)? Will it be a policy-making body? After all, they have the guns," he said.

Slattery, who has worked for years to achieve peaceful resolution to conflict in Latin America, said U.S. forces may be engaged against Noriega for some time.

"Those who suggest that we're going to get this thing done in a few days are naive. I believe the casualty counts will increase significantly," he said.

The congressman said he wouldn't be surprised if Noriega took American and Panamanian hostages to use as bargaining chips for his safe passage to another country.

"I believe Noriega is a crafty adversary," Slattery said. "And I don't think we should underestimate what he's willing to do to save his own hide."

AS TOMASEK sees it, the benefits of the action include the transfer of power to civilians, lifting of U.S. economic sanctions and ouster of a corrupt dictator.

But, he said, the negatives include the U.S. violation of international law, substantial loss of life and the potential for an increase in U.S. military obligations in Panama.

He said the violent climax of the political and economic struggle with Noriega could prompt condemnations by the Organization of American States and United Nations.

Vincent said that once the military issue was resolved, the future of the troubled land in the midsection of the hemisphere would largely be decided on economic terms.

Panama has all the classic problems poor income distribution and rampant unemployment, for example. But the country could be propped up for several years with U.S. aid, he said.

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