“We pray for the dead, let’s look up and move forward together,” said President Laurentino Cortiso during an act attended by some 300 relatives of the victims.
According to official figures, in December 1989, 500 people died, at least 200 of them civilians. Human rights activists, however, argue that the actual death toll is in the thousands.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2018 found the United States guilty of “human rights violations” and ordered it to “provide full compensation.”
The victims demanded that Washington acknowledge the fact of the invasion, compensate the damage and provide information about the mass graves.
The invasion of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause, followed an attempt by the nation, through which the strategically important Panama Canal passes, to pursue a more independent foreign policy. The head of state, Manuel Noriega, was accused of drug trafficking, smuggling and other crimes.
On December 20, 1989, 27,000 US troops, supported by more than 100 tanks and a large air force, invaded Panama.
During the raid on Noriega’s residence, the US military found 50 pounds of “cocaine”, which was sent to the media. Later, it turned out that the white powder turned out to be flour for making tamales, traditional for Latin America.