I see George H.W. Bush through my Panamanian eyes, and the deaths he caused were unforgivable
I remember it like it was yesterday. I received a call from a friend. He was born in Panama of Panamanian parents like I was. We went to school together, and both came to America. He joined the military. I went to the University of Texas at Austin. We both became naturalized citizens. Most of us expats believe he is now was a “U.S. spy,” we think. After all, he never told us what he did for the government. But he was all over Latin America, and other places. That day he called me. It was just a few days before Christmas.
“Egberto, it is going down today,” my friend said. “You did not hear it from me.”
By then I had already known something was going down. Folks in Panama were calling their relatives in the U.S. asking if they knew anything. They said planes (likely C-5s and C-130s) were landing at the U.S. Air Force Bases in the Canal Zone in Panama every few minutes, one after another.
We knew it was coming. The United States military never allowed anything to get out of hand from its point of view in its “colony,” the Canal Zone in Colombia. Oops, I mean the U.S.-instigated-country-to-build-a-canal, Panama. What we did not know is how ferocious it would be.
Sometime after 12 AM on December 20, 1989, all hell broke loose in the cities of Colon, Panama City, and David. The American military targeted the three main Panamanian cuarteles (or barracks) in the provinces of Colón, Panama, and Chiriquí respectively.
The cuarteles in Colón and Panama City are in densely populated areas. Missiles from many understood-to-be the-test-run of the stealth fighter along with helicopters and C-130 gunships decimated the cuarteles and the surrounding buildings and tenements. Thousands of poor people live nearby, and the bombing and missile attacks decimated them. There was no way to get an accurate count of the dead nor was there any interest in doing so, they were just hauled off and dumped like debris.
During the hours of hell, my dad, rest his soul, was running around in his house in Arco Iris scared to death, less than three miles from the concentrated bombings and missile attacks. Then there was one tall building, a 15-story building that the military claim had snipers aiming at their flying assets. They sent missiles into that building where civilians lived.
During the occupation portion of the invasion, the military blocked the movement of people from Arco Iris to Colón. Unable to speak Spanish they opened fire on a Panamanian attempting to go into Colón to get insulin to his wife. Many atrocities were committed throughout the country.