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The flag of Panama.
Panama City at night.

The Republic of Panama is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on an isthmus, some categorize it as a transcontinental nation connecting the north and south part of America.


  • A deadly spot the end of the world almost....There are 20,000 British coloured people working on the canal...; they are mostly from Jamaica & smell too revolting for words....the Panamanians are a very queer people, all dagoes of course, though very pompous and dirty.
  • Panama was part of Colombia when the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, who directed construction of the Suez Canal, decided to build a canal through the Central American isthmus, to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Beginning in 1881, the French undertook a mammoth effort that met with one catastrophe after another. Finally, in 1889, the project ended in financial disaster —but it had inspired a dream in Theodore Roosevelt. During the first years of the twentieth century, the United States demanded that Colombia sign a treaty turning the isthmus over to a North American consortium. Colombia refused. In 1903, President Roosevelt sent in the U.S. warship Nashville. U.S. soldiers landed, seized and killed a popular local militia commander, and declared Panama an independent nation. A puppet government was installed and the first Canal Treaty was signed; it established an American zone on both sides of the future waterway, legalized U.S. military intervention, and gave Washington virtual control over this newly formed "independent" nation. Interestingly, the treaty... was not signed by a single Panamanian. In essence, Panama was forced to leave Colombia in order to serve the United States.
  • For more than half a century, Panama was ruled by an oligarchy of wealthy families with strong connections to Washington. They were right-wing dictators who took whatever measures they deemed necessary to ensure that their country promoted U.S. interests. In the manner of most of the Latin American dictators who allied themselves with Washington, Panama's rulers interpreted U.S. interests to mean putting down any populist movement that smacked of socialism. They also supported the CIA and NSA in anti-Communist activities throughout the hemisphere, and they helped big American businesses like Rockefeller's Standard Oil and United Fruit Company (which was purchased by George H. W. Bush). These governments apparently did not feel that U.S. interests were promoted by improving the lives of people who lived in dire poverty or served as virtual slaves to the big plantations and corporations. Panama's ruling families were well rewarded for their support; U.S. military forces intervened on their behalf a dozen times between the declaration of Panamanian independence and 1968.
  • Of all the thousands of rulers, potentates, strongmen, juntas, and warlords the Americans have dealt with in all corners of the world, General Manuel Antonio Noriega is the only one the Americans came after like this. Just once in its 225 years of formal national existence has the United States ever invaded another country and carried its ruler back to the United States to face trial and imprisonment for violations of American law committed on that ruler's own native foreign turf. Following the bombardment, the United States suddenly found itself in a delicate situation. For a while, it seemed as though the whole thing would backfire. The Bush administration might have quashed the wimp rumors, but now it faced the problem of legitimacy, of appearing to be a bully caught in an act of terrorism. It was disclosed that the U.S. Army had prohibited the press, the Red Cross, and other outside observers from entering the heavily bombed areas for three days, while soldiers incinerated and buried the casualties. The press asked questions about how much evidence of criminal and other inappropriate behavior was destroyed, and about how many died because they were denied timely medical attention, but such questions were never answered.
  • We shall never know many of the facts about the invasion, nor shall we know the true extent of the massacre. Defense Secretary Richard Cheney claimed a death toll between five hundred and six hundred, but independent human rights groups estimated it at three thousand to five thousand, with another twenty-five thousand left homeless... Noriega was arrested, flown to Miami, and sentenced to forty years' imprisonment; at that time, he was the only person in the United States officially classified as a prisoner of war... The world was outraged by this breach of international law and by the needless destruction of a defenseless people at the hands of the most powerful military force on the planet, but few in the United States were aware of either the outrage or the crimes Washington had committed. Press coverage was very limited. A number of factors contributed to this, including government policy, White House phone calls to publishers and television executives, congress people who dared not object, lest the wimp factor become their problem, and journalists who thought the public needed heroes rather than objectivity.
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