Among the effects of the crisis, particularly serious was the increase in foreign debt (one of the highest in the world in per capita terms, also given the need for Panama to import its own currency), which further reduced the autonomy of the government in matters of economic policy. Under pressure from international creditors, a series of austerity measures were launched starting in 1983, while the living conditions of the population worsened (real income per capita it contracted by about 2% annually between 1980 and 1990) and social protests contributed to the growth of tension. Starting from 1986 this was accentuated by the accusations, coming from various quarters, against General Noriega, of being involved in the murder of a political opponent (H. Spadáfora, found killed in 1985 near the border between Panama and Costa Rica), in drug trafficking and the laundering of its proceeds through Panamanian banks, in the clandestine sale of arms to Iran on behalf of the United States, and in the use of the funds thus obtained to finance the anti-Sandinist guerrillas in Nicaragua. Also fueled by the USA, which since 1987 openly aimed at the removal of the general, the complaints against Noriega and
According to Localcollegeexplorer, in February 1988, after the indictment of Noriega for drug trafficking by two US juries, President Delvalle attempted to remove the general, but was in turn dismissed, for violation of the constitution, by the Legislative Assembly, which he appointed president. provisional M. Solis Palma. In the following months, while the sanctions launched by Washington against Panama caused a further worsening of the economic and social situation (in particular due to the blocking of the banking system, the huge capital flight and the worsening of the debt crisis), the start of the electoral campaign for the general consultations of May 1989 saw the formation of a Coalición de Liberación Nacional (COLINA), which nominated the leader of the PRD, C. Duque Jaén, and of an Alianza Democrática de Oposición Civilista (ADOC), which nominated G. Endara Galimany.
Held in a climate of tension and fraud, the elections were canceled by the Electoral Tribunal, but the ADOC, which claimed victory, refused a repeat of them. An attempt at mediation by the OAS (Organization of American States) was unsuccessful and, after the formation in September of a provisional government (chaired, with the support of the armed forces, by F. Rodríguez), the rupture of diplomatic relations between Washington and Panama and a failed military coup in October against Noriega, he assumed the leadership of the country in December with the office of head of state; a few days later, the US invasion of Panama put an end to his rule. Taking refuge at the apostolic nunciature, Noriega surrendered himself to the North American troops on January 3: translated to the United States, he was tried and sentenced in July 1992 to 40 years in prison for drug trafficking.
Intervening on December 20, the US forces (over 25,000 men, about half of whom were sent to Panama in addition to the US troops already present in the country) took a few days to deal with the pockets of resistance and take full control of the situation; which lasted until February 1990, when the US military presence in Panama was brought back within the limits before the intervention, the “ Operation just cause ”, as it was called by Washington, caused 26 deaths among the American forces and a unknown number of Panamanian victims (some hundreds according to the US, thousands according to other estimates), mostly civilians. Heavy for Panama was also the economic damage of the invasion (estimated at over two billion dollars),
Condemned by the UN, the OAS and almost all Latin American states, the intervention of the United States installed Endara (proclaimed president on December 20 in a US military base) in power at the head of a coalition government between the various adhering parties to the ADOC: a few days later, the cancellation of the May elections was revoked and, on the basis of partial documentation – comprising 64% of the votes – kept by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the ADOC was declared the winner with 62% of the suffrages; on this same basis, in February 1990, 58 seats were assigned to the Legislative Assembly (51 to ADOC and 7 to COLINA), while only in January 1991 by elections were held for the remaining nine seats (five went to COLINA and four to COLINA). ‘ADOC).
Despite the lifting of the US sanctions, after the overthrow of Noriega, and a certain recovery in production starting from 1990, the economic situation remained very difficult (in particular as regards the problem of foreign debt), while the policy of privatization and cuts public spending, conducted by Endara according to the indications of international creditors, fueled popular discontent with its heavy social effects (also in terms of employment). The widespread perception that Endara’s government was actually substantially subordinate to the United States and dependent, for its very survival, on Washington’s protection, also contributed to the latter.
Strikes, demonstrations and riots intensified starting in the autumn of 1990, and in June 1992 the same president of the United States, G. Bush, was forced to interrupt his visit to the city of Panama due to protests and incidents. that accompanied them. On the political level, the poor consensus for the Endara administration (which was soon subjected to accusations of corruption and involvement in drug trafficking) manifested itself since the elections of January 1991, when the president’s party did not even get a seat; in the months following the break between Endara and the strongest party adhering to the ADOC, the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), which particularly contested its economic policy, made the parliamentary majority itself precarious. Even more serious was the government’s defeat in November 1992, when its proposal for constitutional reform (including, among other things, the abolition of the armed forces), approved in December 1991 by the Legislative Assembly but subject to ratification, was rejected. by almost two thirds of the voters in a popular referendum which saw the participation of just 40% of the electorate.
The general consultations of May 1994, held in the presence of international observers, saw the victory of the PRD, which obtained the relative majority of seats in the legislative assembly and the election of its candidate E. Pérez Balladares to the presidency of the Republic. Taking office in September, Pérez set up a government of ” national reconciliation ”.