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Public Papers - 1989 - September

Statement on Panama-United States Relations


On May 7, the people of Panama, by an overwhelming margin of votes, braved repression, intimidation, and fraud to choose democracy over dictatorship. They sent a clear and unmistakable message. They wanted an end to dictatorship and restoration of elected democratic government. But this act of self-determination was brutally repressed before the eyes of the entire world. Noriega answered the cry of his people with beatings and killings. The candidates chosen by the Panamanian people will not be allowed to take office today, as required by the Panamanian Constitution. Panama is therefore, as of this date, without any legitimate government.

Accordingly, the United States will not recognize any government installed by General Noriega. Our Ambassador will not return, and we will not have any diplomatic contact with the Noriega regime. The United States will continue to take other steps, including the tightening of measures to deprive the illegal regime of funds that belong to the Panamanian people, in support of self-determination and democracy, and to counter the threat posed by General Noriega's support for drug trafficking and other forms of subversion. I am confident that other governments which support human rights, democracy, and self-determination and which oppose drug trafficking will take similar measures.

This should have been a proud day for Panamanians and for all who believe in self-determination and democracy. Instead, it is a sad day -- a sad day for Panama and for the democratic nations of this hemisphere. The peoples of Panama and the United States have enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship since Panama's founding in 1903. Our people-to-people bonds have become even closer since the conclusion of the canal treaties of 1977, which the United States will continue to uphold. We will not forget this bond, or the sacrifices Panamanians have already made to rid themselves of the outlaw Noriega regime. We will continue to stand by the people of Panama until their fight for self-determination is respected and democratic government is restored.

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