Mar 1 1990

Panama Revisited

Buildings destroyed by the invasion of Panama (cc photo: Beau Finley)

Buildings destroyed by the invasion of Panama (cc photo: Beau Finley)

Though Panama has largely disappeared from the news in the months since the invasion, what coverage remains has not significantly improved in accuracy. Time’s March 5 “Grapevine” column reported:

Under Manuel Antonio Noriega, bank-secrecy laws prevented American agents from tracing hundreds of millions of narcodollars that were laundered through Panamanian banks. Now the U.S.- installed Endara government is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors and investigators seeking to discover what happened to drug profits stashed in more than 300 bank accounts.

As Extra! pointed out last issue, President Endara and numerous other leaders of Panama’s new government have close ties to the very banks that have profited most from drug money laundering (Oakland Tribune, 1/5/90, 1/22/90; New York Times, 2/6/90). These same political figures, when in the opposition, resisted DEA-backed reforms in the bank secrecy laws aimed at reducing money laundering. Since his installation, Endara has repeatedly reaffirmed his belief that the bank laws do not need to be changed.

In the rewriting-of-history department, special mention goes to Doug Tunnel of CBS News who, in a story (3/5/90) on cocaine smuggling by US soldiers returning from Panama, referred to the invasion that removed Noriega from power as “the collapse of the Noriega regime.”

One footnote to the invasion was provided by CNN’s C.D. Jaco, writing in the Washington Journalism Review (3/90). Jaco revealed that the heavy-metal music barrage aimed at the Vatican Embassy was intended not as psychological warfare against Noriega but to “keep reporters from eavesdropping on conversations among troops or inside the embassy.”