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

The US Killed A Leading Iranian Military Figure And Social Media Declared An Impending World War 3

Things That Matter

The US Killed A Leading Iranian Military Figure And Social Media Declared An Impending World War 3

realdonaldtrump / Instagram

Global powers expressed worry and concern about the state of world affairs following the United States’ airstrike near Baghdad’s airport Friday, which killed Iran Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The White House defended the strike in a tweet, saying Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

The United States killed Iran’s top general Friday, which inspired a wealth of reaction on social media about the future of the world.

The killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. strike at Baghdad’s international airport and Tehran’s vow of “harsh retaliation” in response on Friday morning made Twitter and Instagram users nervous about the possible outbreak of conflict between Washington and Tehran culminating in what social media dubbed, World War III.

Meme creators did what they do best: post funny pictures and videos on social media and got #WWIII trending.

France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, said on a radio program: “We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous. When such actions, such operations, take place, we see that escalation is underway.” The term “World War 3” began trending online Friday after the airstrike. Instagram and Twitter users immediately jumped in on the discussion, posting memes, GIFs and jokes about a potential third World War. Here’s a collection of them.

Some lamented the poor start to the new year.

A lot of people woke up to news that the U.S. had launched a deadly attack on Iran’s top military official. The attack was panned by world leaders and political pundits are concerned that the attack could lead to a war between the U.S. and Iran.

Social media users turned to humor to try to make sense of the terrifying possibility of a war started by the U.S.

The airstrike led to protests throughout Iran and Iraq. Iranians were protesting because of the clear attack on their military capabilities. Iraqi citizens protested against the attack on their soil that some consider threatens their sovereignty.

Some joked about avoiding or refusing the draft.

There hasn’t been a draft since the Vietnam War. At the time, Americans protested the nation’s involvement in a war in southeast Asia. Many young men fled to Canada to avoid being drafted by the U.S. military to join the combat.

Many others simply detailed their strategies for avoiding a draft.

There has been no announcement regarding reinstating the draft, and the U.S. currently has an all-volunteer military. However, that doesn’t change the fact the Americans are concerned about a pending war and a draft.

Others made jokes about fake birth certificates and fleeing the country.

Tbh, this might not be a bad idea considering people do not support the attack.

Many mocked themselves and their response to the trending topic.

It is a terrifying moment to realize that something so disastrous and devastating might actually happen.

Some wondered if this was Trump’s way of getting revenge for his impeachment.

We are in uncharted territory and all eyes are on Iran after they threatened retaliation against the U.S.

READ: Here’s What You Can Expect Now That President Trump Has Been Impeached By The House Of Representatives

These Historic Moments Defined Life For US Latinos In The US During The Last Decade

Things That Matter

These Historic Moments Defined Life For US Latinos In The US During The Last Decade

@DanielAlvarenga / @RepAOC / Twitter

The 2010s have been a tumultuous decade for Latinos in the United States. On one hand, Latino culture and Spanish have made huge leaps towards being acknowledged as part of the mainstream. On the other hand, politicians have created a conflictive environment for being Latino in the United States, as immigration policies toughen up and some political discourse becomes borderline racist. These are some of the moments that defined Latino life in the United States in the 2010s. 

1. This is the decade in which we saw Latin American kids locked up in cages.

Credit: CBP / Department Of Homeland Security

This will be perhaps the most infamous fact about the decade. Latinos in the United States saw how migrant kids were locked up in what are actually cages as they were separated from their families and kept under custody of Border Patrol authorities.  

2. Juan Gabriel and Jose Jose died, sending US Latino abuelitas everywhere on a singing spree.

Two of the greatest Mexican singers of all time, adored by tias and abuelitas everywhere, passed away during the decade. Juanga died on 2016 and Jose Jose took his last breath in Miami in 2019. Both deaths were shocking and sent the Spanish-speaking Internet on a meme and condolences frenzy.  

3. DACA was approved by Obama and now Trump wants to get rid of it and the fate of thousands remain uncertain.

Credit: Jeff Chiu / Getty

Barack Obama kept the hopes of millions of DREAMERS alive by pushing DACA, an act that delays action towards people who arrived to the United States as kids and do not have a full citizenship status. As has been the case with most things that Obama did, Trump is now trying to reverse it and DACA sits en la cuerda floja. 

4. Mexican filmmakers ruled over the Oscars, and made strong political statements as they were crowned kings of the movie business.

The Four Amigos, the group comprised by Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu, along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, dominated the Oscars. The directors won 5 of the Best Director awards of the decade and whenever they took the stage they talked about immigrant rights and basically Latino awesomeness. 

5. Trump made that infamous speech calling Mexican migrants “rapists” among many other racist, wrong, and troubling comments.

Credit: CNN News

In part he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

He set the tone of his presidency right from the beginning, when he announced he was running. This vile remark drew the ire of the Mexican government and Mexicans in the United States. There is no coming back from words like these. Latino companies started to break business ties with him following the remarks. These words will resonate forever when we think of how Trump began his path to the White House and the tone of his presidency. 

6. Three letterS: A.O.C. Love her or hate her, she has disrupted politics and that is a fact.

Credit: Desus & Mero / Showtime / Giphy

Some people think she us the next big thing in American politics, while others, perhaps not being used to respect women in power, dismiss her as a know-it-all. Fact is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has redefined the place of Latinas in US politics and is one of the most articulate people in Congress today. 

7. Andy Ruiz Jr became the heavyweight champion of the world (briefly).

It was hard to believe, perhaps too hard. Andy Ruiz Jr, a Mexican-American boxer, became the heavyweight champion of the world in early 2019 by knocking out the undefeated British champ Anthony Joshua. It was a surreal moment that made Latinos proud. Sadly, Ruiz did not train for the rematch, gained weight and was soundly defeated over 12 rounds. 

8. Latino women got more and better representation on mainstream television.

Credit: Jane The Virgin / ABC / Giphy

The 2010s saw two shows in particular that represented Latinas in a more nuanced and truer way than your usual hot mamacita fare. Jane the Virgin and One Day at a Time demonstrated that Latinas can lead a show and be fabulous and intelligent and proud in doing it. 

9. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

Credit: Christopher Gregory / The New Yorker

This fatal event brought out the best and the worst in people. It inspired acts of solidarity both in the island and in the United States, where communities came together to support people in need. But it also brought some nasty comments from some people in power that do not even know that Puerto Ricans are actually US citizens. There were also renewed cries for independence after some considered that the response from the federal government was substandard. 

10. The saddest and most impactful photo of the decade: a father and daughter lose their lives trying to cross the border.

Credit: download. Digital image. La Jornada

This photo travelled the world and became the symbol of the plight of millions of people who try to cross the US-Mexico border. A Central American father and his daughter lay on the Rio Grande, having died by drowning. The photo, originally released by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, became viral and triggered countless discussions about migrant rights.