US Invasion of Panama

Pax Americana

South America 1990.0103

US Invasion of Panama

South America in WWII, the Cold War, and today (3 January 1990)

Historical Map of South American nations

As the Cold War came to a close in 1989, Soviet and Cuban support for Communist guerrilla movements in Latin America dried up. This left drug cultivation and trafficking - already a destabilizing force in the region - as the main source of income for insurgents. By now, several governments had been compromised by drug money; most notably Panama, whose dictator, Manuel Noriega, was frequently referred to as a drug lord. Although they had originally backed him, the US eventually tired of Noriega's exploits and, in late 1989, invaded Panama and overthrew him.

Main Events

Operation Paraquet

In Operation Paraquet, a group of British Special Forces and Royal Marines arrived off the coast of Argentinian-occupied South Georgia, near the main settlement of Grytviken. Following a fifteen minute helicopter assault and naval bombardment, the Argentine garrison surrendered. Another garrison at Leith Harbour surrendered the following day, restoring British control to the island.

Sinking of ARA General Belgrano

The British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror torpedoed the Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano southwest of the Falkland Islands, sinking the WWII-vintage vessel. Although over 700 of the Belgrano's crew members were rescued, 323 died in the incident - making up half of Argentina's war deaths in the Falklands conflict. In response, the Argentine government withdrew almost all its remaining fleet to port, ending the naval threat to the British Task Force.

Recapture of Falkland Islands

On the night of 21 May, the British landed an amphibious task group at San Carlos on Argentinian-occupied East Falkland, securing a beachhead by the following morning. From there, British forces crossed the island, capturing Goose Green in a fierce battle (27-29 May) and converging on the capital of Stanley (Puerto Argentino). Unable to hold Stanley against a British assault beginning 11 June, the Argentinians surrendered after three days, bringing an end to the Falklands War.

M.R.T.A.

The leftist Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) began guerrilla and terrorist actions in Peru, clashing with both the government and its Maoist rival Shining Path. Its most significant action was to seize the Japanese embassy in Lima, holding 72 hostages for more than four months before government forces stormed the residence. In the ensuing battle, all 14 MRTA militants were killed -
including the MRTA leader - and the power of the movement was largely broken.

Operation Urgent Fury

In Operation Urgent Fury, United States-led forces invaded and occupied Grenada, deposing the ruling People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) in a short campaign. The invasion was in response to turmoil in the island nation, in which the Cuban-supported PRG had arrested and executed Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and set up a Revolutionary Military Council under Hudson Austin. After a short period of occupation, democratic rule was restored in Grenada in 1984.

State of Tocantins

In response to lobbying by the population of northern Goiás, the Brazilian government established the state of Tocantins under the 1988 constitution. The state was formally declared on 1 January 1989, with its new capital, Palmas, founded some months later. Tocantins would soon become the fastest growing state in Brazil, reaching 1.5 million people by 2015.

Fall of the Berlin Wall

After Hungary and Czechoslovakia opened their borders to Austria, allowing tens of thousands of East Germans to escape to the West, the government of East Germany partially opened its border with West Germany. In the confusion over the new regulations, masses of East Germans gathered at the Berlin Wall, overwhelming the guards and demanding to cross to the West. At 10:45 pm on 9 November, the guards relented. The Wall was swamped by celebrating East and West Germans, then torn down over the ensuing days.

Operation Just Cause

In Operation Just Cause, United States forces invaded Panama, with US President George H. W. Bush citing Panamanian dictator General Manuel Noriega's threat to US lives and human rights, his role in drug trafficking and related activities, and the danger he posed to the Panama Canal's neutrality as reasons for intervention. The US successfully occupied Panama in just a few weeks, capturing Noriega on 3 January 1990 and restoring democratic rule to the country. Noriega was flown to the US, where he was brought to trial and, in 1992, sentenced to 40 years in prison.

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