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National Archives

Public Papers - 1989

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on United States Military Action in Panama

1989-12-21

Good progress continues to be made on the ground in Panama. Three major objectives were achieved last night by U.S. forces: the Marriott was secured with minimal resistance, Radio Nacional was taken off the air, and the legislative building was secured. General Noriega remains at large and U.S. military operations are targeted at locating him.

Latest casualty figures show 18 U.S. military killed in action, 117 wounded, and 1 missing. One U.S. civilian dependent was also killed. Over 100 of the U.S. servicemen who were wounded have been returned to the United States for treatment at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.

Ambassador Davis, the U.S. Ambassador, has returned to Panama last night. There are reports of scattered weapons firing around the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy, but the Embassy has sustained no new damage beyond that which was reported yesterday. All U.S. Embassy personnel are reported safe.

As we said yesterday, organized resistance to U.S. forces appears to have ended. There continue to be roving bands of individuals conducting looting. We are endeavoring to help bring the situation under control. General Powell announced yesterday that 2,500 military police are arriving in Panama to help with police activities. We have received reports of a number of Americans held against their will, but those reports are unclear. Needless to say, we are following up with our military on all such reports.

The freely elected government of Panama, under President Endara and Vice Presidents Calderon and Ford, is moving to establish itself. They have named their Ambassadors to the U.N. and the OAS. They are Lawrence Chewning Fabrega to the OAS and Eduardo Vallarino to the United Nations. I'm told that there may be a press conference this morning by President Endara, but I'd ask you to double-check that.

The Endara government is in the process of setting up operations which will enable them to utilize the 0 million in funds available under the lifting of the sanctions. President Bush is pleased by the effective conduct of the military operation and, most significantly, by the efforts of the new democratically elected government to begin taking charge of the country.

President Bush spoke with President Endara yesterday to encourage his efforts and to offer our support. President Endara had called the President to thank him for prompt recognition of his government. He reported that the former opposition parties were united behind his Presidency. President Endara discussed some preliminary plans to return to full freedoms, such as restoration of a free press. President Endara spoke of the need for medical supplies, and President Bush agreed to provide supplies just as soon as specific needs can be identified.

Vice President Quayle called Vice President Calderon and Vice President Ford yesterday to reemphasize United States support. Vice President Quayle said he looked forward to seeing a free and independent Panama.

Note: Press Secretary Fitzwater read the statement during his daily press briefing, which began at 10:04 a.m.

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