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  OPERATION PROMOTE LIBERTY                                                                                [p1 of 2]  

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AMERICA'S LEGACY IN PANAMA

PANAMA CANAL TREATY TRANSITION

END OF AN ERA

U.S. MILITARY IN PANAMA

U.S. MILITARY IN REGION-History

LIFE AFTER SOUTHCOM

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BASES-LIST/MAP

U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN PANAMA (1903-1999)

HISTORY

SENIOR MILITARY COMMANDS AND COMMANDERS 

MAJOR SUBORDINATE COMMANDS 

FORCES / UNITS

CHANGING MISSIONS AND STRATEGIES

MAJOR EVENTS

-- Panama Canal Treaty Implementation (1979-1999)

-- Operation Just Cause (Dec 20, 1989- Jan 12, 1990)

Operation Promote Liberty (Jan 12, 1990- mid 1994)

-- Operation Safe Haven (Sept 1994-Feb 1995)

EXERCISES / OPERATIONS

-- Engineering Exercises (Fuertes Caminos;  New Horizons)

-- Other Exercises

MAJOR INSTITUTIONS

-- U.S. Army School of the Americas

-- Inter-American Air Forces Academy

-- Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS)

-- Army Jungle Operations Training Center

-- Army Tropic Test Center

-- Inter-American Geodetic Survey

MILITARY STEWARDSHIP OF ENVIRONMENT

VIGNETTES

 

 OPERATION PROMOTE LIBERTY

U.S. FORCES ASSISTANCE TO PANAMA (1990-1994)

OVERVIEW

 

Operation Promote Liberty, initiated January 12, 1990, days after the launching of Operation Just Cause, was the execution of civil-military restoration of Panama which had been planned as since 1988 as Blind Logic contingency plan, revised with the Southern Command change of command (from General Frederick Woerner to General Maxwell Thurman September 30, 1989), and its name changed to Promote Liberty shortly before it was implemented.

In support of U.S. Government policy objectives toward Panama following  Operation Just Cause, the United States Southern Command, through Operation Promote Liberty, played a significant role in U.S. assistance to Panama's democratic government in reconstructing Panama and consolidating its new democracy after 21 years of military dictatorship.  Much of the U.S. military's assistance was provided by Joint Task Force Panama (a temporary task force established in 1988 and commanded by the commanding general of U.S. Army South, Southern Command's largest service component), along with other Southern Command components and with National Guard and Reserve personnel and units from the United States.

 

INITIAL U.S. MILITARY ASSISTANCE DURING OPERATION JUST CAUSE

Some of the initial, crucial assistance provided by the U.S. military to the new government of Panama began before the official termination date of Operation Just Cause (January 12, 1990).  The first such assistance began December 21 (while combat operations were continuing) when a task force consisting of U.S. Southern Command staff officers worked closely with officials of the new Endara Government at their request.  Among the task force's first priorities were to help organize urgently needed assistance and resumption of essential services, including:

            Restoration of essential public services, such as emergency medical services, water, electricity, garbage collection, law enforcement, and reopening the Tocumen International Airport (renamed from Torrijos), and 

            Coordination of humanitarian relief assistance activities, including supplies and medicine provided by U.S. and local organizations, and establishment of the displaced persons camp by the Southern Command's Air Force component.

While the new Panama National Police was being organized (as the largest part of the new Panama Public Security Forces) and receiving initial training, captured Panama Defense Forces vehicles that were not destroyed during Just Cause combat operations were refurbished by the Army's Maintenance Division (under U.S. Army South's Directorate of Materiel at Corozal) and turned over to the National Police.  

Also during the early phase of Just Cause, U.S. forces paid a total of $811,078 to Panamanians for 8,848 weapons turned in under a "weapons for cash" program which terminated January 7, 1990.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces under Joint Task Force Panama helped ensure security and stability throughout Panama in the early months of 1990, while the National Police force was being established, trained, and equipped.  Such operations were conducted initially by U.S. Army infantry units, then by U.S. military police on combined patrols with Panamanian National Police and liaison teams with National Police stations in the interior of the country.  The combined patrols ended in December 1990.

Reserve Component (National Guard and Reserve) personnel and units, particularly with Civil Affairs and Military Police specialties, were employed with Active military personnel from early January 1990 in these and later assistance activities.     

 

MILITARY SUPPORT GROUP (January 1990-January 1991)

To provide continuity to the initial efforts and to coordinate a myriad of follow-on support and assistance projects under Operation Promote Liberty, a Military Support Group (MSG) was formed January 19, 1990, under Joint Task Force Panama, for one year as a single point for all U.S. military assistance aimed at assisting the newly institute democratic government.

 The MSG provided central direction for all U.S. Department of Defense forces involved in Operation Promote Liberty, including liaison support to the new National Police, other agencies, and coordination of previously programmed (but not used) Security Assistance funding.  The MSG also coordinated a wide range of nation assistance/humanitarian assistance activities (such as the Fuertes Caminos, Nuevos Horizontes and Cosecha Amistad engineer projects) conducted throughout Panama which started in April 1990 and continued through 1997, as well as medical care projects in remote areas of the country.  The MSG coordinated those activities with the U.S. Embassy, the Panamanian Government, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Army South, and other Joint Task Forces Panama elements.

The MSG, headed by Army Colonel James Steele, was composed of such key elements as U.S. military Active and Reserve Component engineer unites and military police and liaison personnel on loan from other units and activities under Joint Task Force Panama or on temporary duty from the United States.

The MSG was gradually reduced from nearly 2,000 personnel (on loan from other units and agencies, and many Army Reservists on active duty) in February 1990 to less than 40 by December 1990.  It was terminated in January 1991 in view of the progress made by then and in accordance with an agreement between the United States and Panamanian Governments to gradually reduce U.S. military assistance as Panamanian institutions became functionally self-sufficient.  The remaining MSG staff became a staff element of U.S. Army South.

 

ASSISTANCE TO NATIONAL POLICE (1990-1993)

During Operation Just Cause, operational necessities (such as the lack of a police force) dictated that the U.S. Forces provided some initial training for the newly established National Police to meet the basic need for law enforcement in Panama.  (The American Embassy staff in Panama had been drastically cut months before Operation Just Cause; hence there was no such expertise there to fill the void.)   A short 20-hour course that touched on all major aspects of civilian police work was developed and provided to initial classes of new policemen until termination of Just Cause.

After President Bush signed into law "The Urgent Assistance for Democracy in Panama Act of 1990" (H.R. 3952, approved February 14, assigned Public Law No. 101 - 243) on February 14, 1990, responsibility for training the approximately 11,000-man new National Police (the largest component under the Panama Public Force) was assumed by the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) under the direction of the U.S. Department of Justice.

As the National Police gained in experience and became better equipped, the combined patrols were gradually reduced and,  along with the U.S. military liaison teams in the metropolitan precincts and in the provinces, were terminated in December 1990.  Thereafter for a short period, a limited number of U.S. military Police-Panama National Police courtesy patrols operated in certain areas of Panama City and Colon.  They were available to assist U.S. military community personnel, a practice which exist in other countries where U.S. military personnel are stationed.  The U.S. Military Police members of those courtesy patrols did not have any law enforcement authority over Panamanian nationals.

Beginning in early 1990, at the request of the Panamanian Government, previously programmed (for the Panama Defense Forces) but unused security assistance funds (frozen since November 1987) were provided to the government to equip and help maintain the National Police and the small National Air Service.  A total of $6.7 million worth of portable radios, vehicles, weapons appropriate for law enforcement purposes, and over 33,000 uniforms were furnished.  An additional $3.82 million (also from frozen security assistance funds) spent for supplemental maintenance of equipment, spare parts, operational enhancement items, and support items for the National Air Service and National Maritime Service (also under the Public Force).

The U.S. commitment to assist in the consolidation of democracy was clearly demonstrated by the U.S. Government's response to President Endara's request that the United States assist Panamanian authorities in putting down the December 4-5, 1990 coup attempted by Eduardo Herrera Hassan, a former head of the new Public Force who had been under  Panamanian confinement, along with a number of his ex-PDF supporters.  It was characterized by Panamanian authorities as a threat to Panama's budding democracy.  Approximately 500 military personnel from Joint Task Force Panama assisted the National Police on December 5 in recapturing Herrera who had escaped from Panamanian confinement the day before. 

 

 

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  Site developed, owned and maintained by 

William H. Ormsbee, Jr.  2006

 

 

PRIME MOVERS IN EXECUTION OF OPERATION PROMOTE LIBERTY

Maj. Gen. Marc Cisneros Commanding General

U.S. Army South

(June 1989 - July 1990)

and

Commander

Joint Task Force- Panama

 

 

 

COLONEL JAMES STEELE

COMMANDER - MILITARY SUPPORT GROUP

(Jan 1990 - Jan 1991)

 

 

 

 

DEANE HINTON

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO PANAMA

 

 

 

 

Panamanian President Guillermo Endara Galimany

(December 27, 1989 - September 1994)

(After clearly winning the Presidency in the May 1989 elections, they were voided days later by General Manuel Noriega)