December 20, 1989, the United States broke both international law and
its own government policies by invading Panama in order to bring its President
Manuel Noriega to justice for drug trafficking.
Noriega had seized control of his country back in 1983
when he became head of the National Guard. From this position of power,
he was able to build up the military and manipulate elections so that
the winning presidents would be his puppet leaders.
Corruption was widespread during Noriega's rule, and
he was able to use his power to imprison and sometimes kill any who opposed
him. In 1987 a former officer of the Panamanian defense force publicly
accused Noriega of cooperating with Colombian drug producers.
The US responded by imposing strict sanctions that took
an extensive toll on the country. On December 15, 1989, the Panamanian
legislature declared Noriega president and that the US and Panama were
in a state of war. Following the shooting of a U.S. Marine, President
George Bush ordered Operation Just Cause, an invasion consisting of over
25,000 soldiers. The mission was controversial due to the resulting loss
of hundreds of Panamanian lives and the subsequent damage to Panama City
and El Chorillo.
The military was able to quickly achieve its goals as
Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990. He was taken to the US, tried,
convicted and jailed on drug trafficking charges and is currently serving
his 40-year sentence in Miami.