1989-12-20 to 1990-01-31
Panama-PanamaThe United States Invasion of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause occurred between mid-December 1989 and late January 1990. It occurred during the administration of President George H. W. Bush and ten years after the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were ratified to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the U.S. to Panama by 1 January 2000.
On September 7, 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the de facto leader of Panama, General Omar Torrijos, signed Torrijos–Carter Treaties, which set in motion the process of handing over the Panama Canal to Panamanian control by 2000. Although the canal was destined for Panamanian administration, the military bases remained and one condition of the transfer was that the canal would remain open for American shipping. The U.S. had long-standing relations with General Noriega, who served as a U.S. intelligence asset and paid informant of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1967, including the period when Bush was head of the CIA (1976–77).
In March 1988, Noriega's forces resisted an attempted coup against the government of Panama. As relations continued to deteriorate, Noriega appeared to shift his Cold War allegiance towards the Soviet bloc, soliciting and receiving military aid from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Libya. American military planners began preparing contingency plans to invade Panama.
The operation began with an assault of strategic installations, such as the civilian Punta Paitilla Airport in Panama City and a PDF garrison and airfield at Rio Hato, where Noriega also maintained a residence. U.S. Navy SEALs destroyed Noriega's private jet and a Panamanian gunboat. A Panamanian ambush killed four SEALs and wounded nine.
Pressure mounted on Bush. Bush declared that the U.S. would not negotiate with a drug trafficker and denied knowledge of Noriega's involvement with the drug trade prior to his February 1988 indictment, although Bush had met with Noriega while Director of the CIA and had been the Chair of the Task Force on Drugs while Vice President. On 15 December, the Panamanian general assembly passed a resolution declaring that a state of war existed between Panama and the United States
The Raid at Renacer Prison was an attack on the El Renacer prison in Gamboa, Panama, by units of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army on 20 December 1989, during the United States invasion of Panama. During the raid the U.S. military was able to free the sixty-four prisoners held in the detention facility.
Noriega remained at large for several days, but realizing he had few options in the face of a massive manhunt and a $1 million reward for his capture, he obtained refuge in the Vatican diplomatic mission in Panama City. The U.S. military's psychological pressure on him and diplomatic pressure on the Vatican mission, Noriega finally surrendered to the U.S. military on 3 January 1990. He was immediately put on an MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft and flown to the U.S.