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Cablegate: Panama: Sharing the Facts On Attacks by Noriega

O P 190243Z DEC 89
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL AMERICAN REPUBLIC DIPLOMATIC POSTS IMMEDIATE
ALL OECD CAPITALS
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
INFO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS PRIORITY
XMT USINT HAVANA

UNCLAS STATE 401887

FOR AMBASSADORS AND CHARGES

E.O. 12356: N/A
TAGS: PBTS MARR PREL PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: SHARING THE FACTS ON ATTACKS BY NORIEGA
FORCES ON U.S. MILITARY PERSONNEL

INFORM CONSULS ALSO FOR USEC/USOECD/USIAEA

FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY


1. (LOU) THERE FOLLOWS AN ACCOUNTING OF BASIC
FACTS CONCERNING THE DECEMBER 16-17 INCIDENTS IN
PANAMA IN WHICH A U.S. MILITARY OFFICER WAS SHOT
AND KILLED AND ANOTHER BEATEN BY THE PANAMA DEFENSE
FORCES (PDF). THE NORIEGA REGIME IS ALREADY
EMBARKED ON A CAMPAIGN OF DISINFORMATION WHICH THE
U.S. GOVERNMENT INTENDS TO VIGOROUSLY COUNTER.
ACTION REQUESTED: DEMARCHES SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN
BY ACTION ADDRESSEES WITH HOST GOVERNMENT, LOCAL
MEDIA AND DIPLOMATIC CONTACTS IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE
WIDE DISSEMINATION OF THE FACTS. INFO ADDRESSEES
MAY ALSO DRAW ON AS APPROPRIATE. (ALSO SEE PARA 4.)

2. (U) THESE UNPROVOKED ACTIONS BY THE PDF COME IN THE
WAKE OF NORIEGA'S LATEST MEASURE TO CREATE A FACADE FOR
HIS CONTINUING CAMPAIGN OF SUPPRESSION OF THE PANAMANIAN
PEOPLE. ON DECEMBER 15, AN UNELECTED ASSEMBLY OF
PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS HAND-PICKED BY NORIEGA-WITHOUT ANY
LEGAL, CONSTITUTIONAL OR, INDEED, POPULAR
LEGITIMACY--DECLARED THAT PANAMA IS IN A STATE OF WAR WITH
THE U.S. AND PROCLAIMED NORIEGA AS CHIEF OF GOVERNMENT.
THESE ACTIONS HAVE TAKEN PLACE AS THE REGIME HAS BECOME
FURTHER ISOLATED INTERNATIONALLY, UNDERSCORED IN NOVEMBER
BY THE CONDEMNATION OF THE NORIEGA REGIME BY THE GENERAL
ASSEMBLY OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES AND THE
DISINVITATION OF THE PDF FROM THE BIENNIAL CONFERENCE OF
THE AMERICAN ARMIES.

3. (U) BEGIN BACKGROUND:

MEMBERS OF THE PANAMANIAN DEFENSE FORCES OPENED FIRE ON A
CAR CARRYING FOUR U.S. MILITARY OFFICERS IN THE EVENING OF
DECEMBER 16, KILLING ONE AMERICAN SERVICEMAN AND INJURING
ANOTHER. A THIRD U.S. MILITARY OFFICER, WHO WITNESSED
THE EVENT, WAS DETAINED AND BEATEN BY THE PDF.

EARLIER IN THE EVENING, THE FOUR OFF-DUTY OFFICERS LEFT
THE U.S. ARMY BASE AT FORT CLAYTON, UNARMED, IN CIVILIAN
CLOTHING, AND DRIVING IN A PRIVATELY OWNED CAR, HEADING
FOR DINNER IN A POPULAR DOWNTOWN PANAMA CITY RESTAURANT.
ON THEIR WAY DOWNTOWN, THEY GOT LOST AND UNINTENTIONALLY
DROVE ONTO AVENUE A. NEAR THE PANAMA DEFENSE FORCE'S
HEADQUARTERS INSTEAD OF FOURTH OF JULY AVENUE WHICH
CONNECTS U.S. MILITARY BASES.

AT 9:05PM ON DECEMBER 16, PANAMA TIME, THEY CAME TO A PDF
ROADBLOCK AND WERE STOPPED BY ABOUT FIVE UNIFORMED MEMBERS
OF THE PDF. A CROWD OF 30 TO 40 CIVILIANS, SPOTTING THE
U.S. LICENSE PLATES, SWARMED TOWARD THE CAR. THE PDF
MEMBERS REACHED THROUGH THE OPEN CAR WINDOWS, TUGGING AT
THE SERVICEMEN'S CLOTHES AND SEAT BELTS, AND OPENED SOME
OF THE CAR DOORS IN AN ATTEMPT TO PULL THE AMERICANS FROM
THEIR CAR.

THE FEW CARS AHEAD OF THE AMERICANS AT THE ROADBLOCK WERE
WAVED ON, AND ONE OF THE U.S. OFFICERS ASKED IN SPANISH
WHY THE AMERICANS WERE BEING SINGLED OUT. NO ANSWER WAS
GIVEN. THE DRIVER OF THE CAR SAW THAT THE PDF WEAPONS --
AK-47'S AND AUTOMATIC RIFLES - HAD BEEN LOADED AND AIMED
AT THE AMERICANS. FEARING FOR THEIR SAFETY, THEY CLOSED
THE WINDOWS AND DROVE AWAY, PAST THE ROADBLOCK.

AS THE CAR SPED AWAY, PDF SOLDIERS OPENED FIRE ON THE
AMERICANS. ONE OF THE U.S. OFFICERS WAS WOUNDED AND
ANOTHER WAS GRAZED AT THE ANKLE BY A BULLET. THEY DROVE
TO GORGAS ARMY HOSPITAL, ABOUT FIVE BLOCKS FROM THE U.S.
SOUTHERN COMMAND HEADQUARTERS AT QUARRY HEIGHTS, WHERE THE
WOUNDED OFFICER DIED ABOUT FIFTEEN MINUTES AFTER ARRIVING.
THE NAMES OF THE VICTIMS HAVE NOT YET BEEN RELEASED,
PENDING NOTIFICATION OF THEIR NEXT OF KIN.

A U.S. NAVY LIEUTENANT AND HIS WIFE HAD BEEN STOPPED IN
THEIR CAR ABOUT HALF AN HOUR BEFORE THE FOUR OFFICERS
ARRIVED, AT THE SAME CHECKPOINT ON AVENUE A. THEY GOT
LOST AFTER DINING OUT WHILE HEADING HOME TO THE U.S. NAVAL
STATION AT RODMAN, ON THE WEST BANK OF THE PANAMA CANAL
NEAR HOWARD AIR FORCE BASE. PDF SOLDIERS STOPPED THEIR
CAR, ASKED FOR THEIR IDENTIFICATION CARDS, AND TOLD THEM
TO PULL OVER TO THE SIDE OF THE STREET UNTIL THEIR
IDENTIFICATION WAS CHECKED.

WHILE WAITING IN THE CAR, THE COUPLE SAW THE FOUR
AMERICANS ARRIVE AND LATER WITNESSED THE PDF SOLDIERS
RAISE THEIR WEAPONS AND AIM AT OFFICERS' CAR AS IT STARTED
TO SPEED AWAY. THE COUPLE SAID THE PDF THEN BEGAN TO FIRE
AT THE OFFICERS' CAR.

AFTER THE SHOOTING, THE PDF MEMBERS RETURNED TO THE
WAITING NAVY OFFICER AND HIS WIFE. THEY TOOK THE COUPLE
TO A NEARBY PDF OFFICE, BLINDFOLDED THEM WITH MASKING
TAPE, AND DROVE THEM IN THE BACK OF A PICKUP TRUCK TO
ANOTHER LOCATION, WHICH THE NAVY OFFICER BELIEVED TO BE
THE PDF HEADQUARTERS. THE COUPLE WAS INTERROGATED FOR
ABOUT FOUR HOURS.

DURING THE QUESTIONING, THE NAVAL OFFICER WAS REPEATEDLY
BEATEN AND KICKED IN THE GROIN AND HEAD. HE WAS TOLD HE
WOULD BE KILLED IF HE DID NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION ON HIS
DUTIES AND HIS UNIT. HIS WIFE WAS SLAMMED AGAINST A WALL
WITH SUCH FORCE THAT HER HEAD WAS CUT. AFTER STANDING AT
THE WALL FOR HALF AN HOUR, WITH HER ARMS ABOVE HER HEAD,
SHE COLLAPSED ONTO THE FLOOR. SHE WAS ALSO SEXUALLY
THREATENED BY PDF SOLDIERS.

FOUR HOURS AFTER THEY WERE STOPPED, THE NAVAL OFFICER AND
HIS WIFE WERE ESCORTED BY THE PDF TO FOURTH OF JULY AVENUE
THREE BLOCKS AWAY AND RELEASED. THEY ARRIVED AT THE NAVAL
SECURITY OFFICE AT RODMAN ABOUT 2:15AM, DECEMBER 17, WHERE
THEY PROVIDED STATEMENTS.

THE U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND IMPOSED PERSONNEL MOVEMENT
LIMITATION "D" ABOUT 9:50PM ON DECEMBER 16, DIRECTING ALL
MILITARY PERSONNEL AND THEIR DEPENDENTS TO STAY OUT OF
PUBLIC AREAS IN PANAMA. SECURITY AT ALL U.S. MILITARY
INSTALLATIONS WAS IMMEDIATELY ENHANCED TO ENSURE THE
PROTECTION OF U.S. PERSONNEL AND FACILITIES.

SOUTHERN COMMAND AND U.S. EMBASSY OFFICIALS EXPRESSED
GRAVE CONCERN OVER THE UNWARRANTED USE OF DEADLY FORCE BY
THE PDF.

THE PDF'S PATTERN OF HARRASSMENT OF AMERICANS HAS NOW
RESULTED IN THE DEATH OF A UNITED STATES SERVICEMAN, THE
BEATING OF A NAVAL OFFICER, AND THE HARASSMENT OF HIS WIFE.

GENERAL NORIEGA HAS NOW BRUTALIZED THE PEOPLE OF PANAMA,
CRACKED DOWN ON HIS OWN CIVILIANS AND MILITARY ALIKE AFTER
THE LAST COUP ATTEMPT, DESIGNATED HIMSELF THE LEADER OF
THE COUNTRY, AND DECLARED A STATE OF WAR WITH THE UNITED
STATES. THESE ACTIONS HAVE CREATED A CLIMATE OF
AGGRESSION THAT PUTS AMERICAN LIVES AT RISK. THIS IS
UNACCEPTABLE TO THE UNITED STATES.

END BACKGROUND.

4. FOR ACTION ADDRESSEES: IN ORDER TO IMPRESS ON THE
GOVERNMENTS OF ACTION ADDRESSEES THE UNACCEPTABILITY OF
THESE ACTIONS BY THE NORIEGA REGIME, THE SECRETARY HAS
ASKED THAT ACTION ADDRESSEES MAKE THE DEMARCHE AT THE
HIGHEST POSSIBLE LEVEL.


BAKER

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