Panama Adds Day to Mourn Victims of US Invasion

On Dec. 20, the nation will commemorate the hundreds killed in 1989
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 2, 2022 4:45 PM CDT
Panama Plans Holiday to Honor Victims of US Invasion
A photograph of Lt. Armando Chiru, who was killed during the 1989 US-led invasion of Panama, is placed at his grave in the Jardin de Paz cemetery in Panama City in 2012.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

The president of Panama has declared an annual national holiday to commemorate Panamanians who died during the 1989 US invasion of the country. The decree signed Thursday by President Laurentino Cortizo establishes Dec. 20, the date of the invasion, as a national day of mourning, the AP reports. People in Panama will have the day off. "By enacting this law, we settle a debt with the nation, with those who died in that tragic event, who we remember with respect," Cortizo said.

A truth commission set up years ago documented about 20 disappearances from the US military action that toppled strongman Manuel Noriega. About 300 Panamanian soldiers and 214 civilians were killed during the invasion, according to official estimates, while the US military reported 23 deaths among its troops. Human rights groups say the number of Panamanian dead could be higher. "It took us a long time to achieve this demand, and finally, the day has arrived," said Trinidad Ayola, president of the Association of Friends and Relatives of Victims of Dec. 20.

Questions remain about where some of the Panamanians were buried. Forensic workers have exhumed several bodies from a Panama City cemetery to determine their identities. The cemetery contains more than 100 people killed during the invasion that were first exhumed months after the invasion because they had been buried in common graves. DNA testing is expected to take months.

(Read more Panama stories.)

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