Panama

Part of the Global Perspectives on War and Peace Collection. This tape was shot in Panama three weeks after the U.S. invasion in December 1989 that deposed leader Manuel Noriega. It attempts to contradict the rosy portrayal of the invasion popularized by the U.S. media, and was produced at great risk to the producers and to the Panamanians.

00:00Copy video clip URL Several Panamanians, whose identities remain anonymous, express their feelings about the U.S. invasion and recount their experience of that day.

02:22Copy video clip URL “For me, like many other Panamanians, we have come to recognize that U.S. imperialism is in reality the principal enemy of Latin America. This genocide that has been committed against us should serve as an experience to the rest of Latin America so that they won’t be caught by surprise like us, an unarmed people.”

02:44Copy video clip URL “The [new] government will try and appear democratic. They’ll recognize political parties, including some to the left. We don’t know how far the repression will go. Right now, they’re doing it very selectively, but we do expect it to spread to the rest of the Left, those who have not already been captured. They have made many attempts on many occasions – visits to their houses, always conducted by the occupying army.”

03:27Copy video clip URL “I had the personal experience of falling in to the hands of the imperialists. And I don’t say ‘imperialists’ rhetorically, because they really are imperialists. Damn them. The fact alone that I was captured in my own country, and then at the point of a bayonet, I was forced to kneel in my own land, this for me is an act of mistreatment and humiliation. I don’t share the idea that anyone is receiving humane treatment. Proof of that is the extraordinary killings that took place, the true act of terrorism. ”

04:25Copy video clip URL “In the days following the invasion you could see the devastation in the poor neighborhoods near the headquarters. Carbonized children at their windows, it was frightening. Mothers and their children burnt to death, still embracing each other in the streets. So I think to myself: I have the right to be here. We have to stay here and denounce this thing.”

05:15Copy video clip URL “You could see me waving at the troops, but inside, I wished their death. Many people do this to save their own skin. People are afraid. They are young boys. I spoke to a black American soldier. I told him I didn’t agree with what they did in my country. He asked me to understand that it was his job and that he too disagreed, and that he was glad that I had told him that, that he didn’t like what he had to do.”

05:52Copy video clip URL Jan 11, 1990. Prof. Chu Chu Martinez, a Panamanian poet, voices anti-American sentiment: “We don’t know if we’re going to be here three hours from now. The American invasion has caused the word ‘future’ in Panama to have a different meaning right now.” He explains that what has happened in Panama is not something to be comprehended simply intellectually, that it needs to be felt emotionally, that it is a deeply moral problem.

07:07Copy video clip URL Martinez continues, “The U.S. has given us a blow that has hurt us deeply. It is an integral blow. It has hurt our poetry, our philosophy, our economy, our military, everything… We are not only in danger of becoming a colony, Panama is in danger of losing its national identity.”

07:48Copy video clip URL Martinez: “Just like a toothache – you know about it, you can talk about it, you remember you had a toothache two years ago, you know that you’re going to have a toothache in the future, but you don’t know a toothache unless you have it at that moment… Well, we all knew that to see American soldiers in the streets was going to be painful. We all knew that that happened in Santo Domingo. We all knew that these things happen. But we didn’t believe it and we didn’t know how strong it is until we saw it.”

08:39Copy video clip URL Martinez predicts that this invasion is the first step in a larger war against Latin America. “No one will stand up against the biggest army in the world.” He asks the U.S. military to leave Panama immediately and end the occupation.

11:20Copy video clip URL Martinez complains that Panama has democracy in name only – he can’t think of a single person he knows whose home has not been invaded by soldiers. He also rails against the American press: “I hate the American media. Because they are really wicked. They are wicked with their own people. I can understand to be wicked with the enemy, but to be wicked with your sons, your daughters, your neighbors… How can they say, for example, that in Panama there are only 250 dead? How can they say that, when the dead are counted by thousands?”

 

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