Things That Matter

Thirty Years Ago The US Invaded Panama And Left Hundreds Dead, Now Panama Is Hosting A Day Of Mourning

On December 20, 1989, then-President Geroge W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to invade Panama in an attempt to overthrow Manuel Noriega and they succeeded. Noriega is commonly seen as a dictator who took over Panama in 1983 until he was captured by the U.S. in 1989, though he had been on a course of power for decades before that. While Noriega was tried and convicted for his crimes, which included federal narcotics-trafficking and money-laundering charges, the aftermath of the invasion left Panamanians at a loss — and some say even worse than before. 

It’s been 30 years since the invasion of Panama. Family and friends that lost their loved ones during the invasion are still trying to find out what happened to them. 

Noriega’s strength in Panama that began in the late ’60s propelled to a mass scale thanks to his military background. Even though Noriega and the U.S. were on friendly terms and conducted business as usual, Noriega was committing acts of fraud, including rigging elections. Noriega’s desire for power continued to grow and when the U.S. deemed it too dangerous for the people of Panama and U.S. citizens living there, that is when Bush ordered to overthrow him. The Associated Press reports that 27,000 U.S. soldiers launched an attack in Panama. But locals, many who were military servicemen and civilians, were caught in the crossfire during the invasion. 

“It has begun. They are invading us. They are attacking at all the barracks,” Braulio Bethancourt told his wife. Iris Herrera recalled to the Associated Press the last words she heard from her husband on the night of the invasion. Thirty years since then, she still doesn’t have closure over what happened to him that night because his body has never been found. 

After the invasion, 300 Panamanian soldiers were killed along with 214 civilians. However, human rights groups said the casualties of deaths are much higher. The U.S. also lost 23 soldiers. The Panama Truth Commission aims at investigating the invasion and figuring out what happened to those that died. 

“Panama is seeking to heal its wounds,” the country’s vice president and foreign minister, Isabel de Saint Malo, said on Twitter in 2016. “There can be no reconciliation if the truth is not known.” The United States is also complying with this investigation. 

“The United States is willing to work with the government of Panama as it seeks to discover its own history,” the U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feeley, told Univision in 2016. “We believe that transparency and historical examination is important.” Since the launch of the Panama Truth Commission in 2016, 15 people that disappeared during the invasion have had their cases reopened. 

“We know there are more unknown and missing people who probably can be found,” José Luis Sosa, executive secretary of the Panama Truth Commission, told the AP.  Trinidad Ayola, who lost her husband in the invasion, founded the Association of Relatives of the Fallen, where people could turn to for help after losing a loved one during combat. 

“We are now on the way to recognizing some missing people, but not in their totality because, over the course of 30 years, much evidence has been lost,” Ayola told the AP. 

Gabriel Marcella, former Director of the Americas Studies at the U.S. Army War College, and former Advisor to the Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command in Panama, told Univision in 2016 that the commission will help bring closure to people who have been seeking answers for decades. 

“Such commissions can be a productive way to heal old wounds and allow societies to go forward certain of the truth and perhaps even justice about the past,” Marcella said. 

On Friday, the Panama government officially declared an official day of mourning to commemorate the invasion 30 years ago. 

“For 30 years, Panamanian society has waited for the lives of those who died or were wounded during the invasion of Panamanian territory in 1989 to be honored,” the office of the presidency said via Twitter, according to the AP. 

Laurentino Cortizo, president of Panama, also tweeted about the 30-year anniversary, stating, “A day like today, 30 years ago, before and after is written in the history of our country. Today is #DueloNacional day, and we express our deep solidarity with those affected, victims and relatives of those Panamanians who perished in the invasion of December 20.”

While some may say this commemoration is 30 years too late, we think this day of mourning and the investigation into the invasion is critical to documenting the truth of what happened on that day.  

READ: UNESCO Has Started Recognizing The Cultural Significance Of The Congo Panamanian People

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The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

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The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

Bloomberg / Getty Images

Not that we should be traveling right now, as the country’s Coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral out of control – but it’s worth noting that our international options are fewer than they were just months ago.

Historically, the U.S. passport has been seen as the golden ticket to travel with ease across the international community as it was once regarded as one of the strongest passports in the world. But that’s changing.

You can blame the drop in standing of the U.S. passport on our elected leaders who have massively failed to gain an upper hand on this health crisis. As other countries have demonstrated an ability to control Coronavirus within their borders, the U.S. has failed miserably. And that failure – in addition to more than 3 million infections and 130,000 deaths – has resulted in Americans simply being turned away from international destinations.

The U.S. passport dropped in visa-free access from 7th to 25th place as a result of our Coronavirus failures.

In what is a double whammy for the United States, the country recently crossed the three-million mark in terms of the number of registered COVID-19 cases, and more than 132,000 people have died from the disease. Now, its handling of the pandemic has drastically diminished power of its passport. 

Before the pandemic, the U.S. was regularly listed in the Top 10 on the Henley Passport Index, an annual ranking of the number of countries a passport gets you into without a visa. The ranking is based on data from the International Air Transport Association. The US usually comes in sixth or seventh and topped the list as recently as 2014. Before the coronavirus pandemic, a US passport would get you into 185 destinations around the world without the need for a visa at all or a visa on arrival.

According to the latest Henley Passport Index, U.S. passports now have access to only 158 countries, putting it on par with a Mexican passport, a significant decline from its previous top 10 ranking in 2014.

“We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind,” says Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, according to Forbes.

The biggest drop came as a result of the European Union banning entry to U.S. citizens.

Many countries across the globe are beginning to open back up as they get their Coronavirus outbreaks under control, and they are limiting or banning travel with countries where the virus is running rampant — including the United States. 

In fact, as Europe has slowly started to reopen its borders to international tourists, it’s specifically left off the U.S. Europe’s decision is responsible for the largest drop in the power of the U.S. passport.

Recently, five Americans who flew to Sardinia on a private jet were turned away and governors in Mexico are advocating for tighter border measures to prevent Americans from going into the country and spreading the virus. 

The U.S. passport is now equal in strength to that of Mexico and Uruguay.

It’s no secret that citizenship is the main factor behind preserving global inequalities today and that simply holding a U.S. passport can grant you access to so many more destinations. But now, Americans are getting to swee just how your government’s actions – or failures – can result in you being treated differently on the global level.

Thanks to America’s failure at combating the virus, U.S. citizens now hold passports that have around the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Mexico (#25 on Henley Passport Index, with a score of 159) and Uruguay (#28, with a score of 153).

Coronavirus continues to rage out of control across the U.S., so it should go without saying that an international trip is not a good idea right now.

Countries are closing their doors to Americans, as the outbreak in the US — the worst in the world — nears 3 million infections with over 131,000 deaths.

The US last week surpassed 50,000 new daily coronavirus cases, and that trend has been maintained this week with multiple states and cities recording record-high new infections, hospitalizations, or deaths. 

Another factor playing into travel restrictions – beyond the surging of cases in the U.S., is that America’s health care system is decentralized, unpredictable and unequal.

Tourism is essential for the economies of many destinations—and the livelihoods of individuals and families—and plays a role in reducing poverty. But right now is not the time for Americans to be traveling.

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Vanessa Guillen’s Abuela Traveled From Zacatecas to Say Goodbye To Her While Further Seeking Justice

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Vanessa Guillen’s Abuela Traveled From Zacatecas to Say Goodbye To Her While Further Seeking Justice

Sergio Flores / Getty Images

Update: Vanessa Guillen’s abuela, Lorenza Almanza, made the trip to the U.S. by bus to be with her family. Almanza is here to say goodbye to her granddaughter and to continue to bring attention to the need for justice.

Vanessa Guillen’s abuela is in the U.S. as the demand for justice in the case grows.

“I just want justice for my little Vanessa because she did not deserve this,” Almanza told Telemundo. She added: “God knows how they made my daughter suffer.”

According to NBC, Almanza brought a bar of chocolate from Zacatecas to leave at her memorial because it was her favorite. Almanza traveled to the U.S. with her children to all pay their respects and be with family. Despite COVID restrictions, the family was given a special visa to cross the border during this time.

Guillen’s murder investigation has rocked the U.S. Army. The 20-year-old soldier went missing in April after attempting to report sexual harassment while at Fort Hood. Months later, her remains were found in a shallow grave. A soldier who was a suspect committed suicide and his girlfriend, a civilian, was arrested.

Original: The search for Vanessa Guillen has ended after human remains were identified as the missing soldier. An investigation into the crime has led to suspects being identified and arrested. Here’s what we know so far.

A soldier, who was a suspect in Vanessa Guillen’s death, committed suicide Wednesday.

Human remains were discovered Tuesday and identified as Vanessa Guillen on Wednesday. The suspects in Guillen’s death have not been named but one of the suspects committed suicide on Wednesday morning. The military suspect shot himself while law enforcement was searching for him.

Tim Miller, the founder of Texas Equusearch, told the Houston Chronicle that he believes the military suspect killed himself at 1:30 a.m. local time. The military suspect, who was in Killeen, Texas, committed suicide shortly after human remains were discovered near the Leon River in Bell County, Texas.

Guillen’s family have expressed their grief at press conferences since the body was identified.

The family is demanding justice. One civilian suspect is currently in jail after being arrested in connection with Guillen’s death. One of Guillen’s sisters recognized the military suspect. Mayra Guillen told the press that she met the military suspect who committed suicide.

“At approximately 1:29 a.m., officers located the suspect in the 4700 block of East Rancier Avenue,” reads the statement from the Killeen Police Department website. “As officers attempted to make contact with the suspect, the suspect displayed a weapon and discharged it towards himself.  The suspect succumbed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

The suspects have not been identified, however, we do have descriptions of the suspects.

“The person who took his own life earlier today in Killeen after being sought by Killeen police and federal marshals was a soldier from Fort Hood and had fled the base earlier in the day,” reads a statement by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. “A civilian has been arrested in connection with Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance. The civilian suspect is the estranged wife of a former Fort Hood Soldier and is currently in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.”

The case has captivated the nation as some people hurt for the family.

The investigation into Vanessa Guillen’s death is still ongoing. There are no answers yet but her family alleges that Guillen was coming forward with sexual assault and harassment allegations. The family’s recounting of Guillen’s sexual assault allegations is renewing the conversation of sexual assault in the military.

The family is calling out Fort Hood and the military’s response to the disappearance of Guillen. According to the family, they have been pleading with Fort Hood and the U.S. Army to conduct an investigation but saw nothing happening.

READ: Partial Human Remains Found Near Fort Hood Likely Vanessa Guillen’s

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