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  OPERATION PROMOTE LIBERTY                                                                                [p2 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

SOUTHCOM TODAY

PANAMA

COMMENTARY

By WHO / By Others

OTHER TOPICS
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 (continued)

 

NATION ASSISTANCE / HUMANITARIAN AND CIVIC ACTION PROJECTS

Principal nation assistance projects conducted throughout the country since early 1990, in addition to providing training opportunities for the U.S. troops,  included upgrading or constructing roads and bridges; refurbishing or constructing additions to schools, medical clinics, and other public-use facilities; drilling water wells; and constructing or repairing sewage and water supply systems.  The majority of such facilities had deteriorated because of lack of maintenance during the two decades of military rule (1968-1989).

Before work began in 1990, civil affairs assessment teams, directed by the Military Support Group (MSG), evaluated and surveyed those public facilities together with Panamanian authorities.

 

FUERTES CAMINOS AND COSECHA AMISTAD ENGINEER PROJECTS

Fuertes Caminos ("Strong Roads") and Cosecha Amistad ("Harvesting Friendship") engineering exercises had been conducted annually throughout Panama  from 1990 through 1997, primarily using stateside National Guard and Reserve unit on rotations. (About 75 percent of the engineering manpower and equipment in the Army is in the Reserve Component, the Army National Guard and Reserve.)  All such exercises were coordinated with the appropriate ministries of the Panamanian Government  (e.g., Ministries of Public Works, Health, and Education).  (Earlier engineering exercises conducted in Panama 1984-1986 featured constructing or repairing farm to market roads and bridges, while those conducted since 1990 featured also vertical construction, such as school rooms, medical clinics, and other public facilities generally in remote areas.)  (For more on those exercise projects GO TO.)

From 1990 through 1994 under Fuertes Caminos and Cosecha Amistad engineering exercises, a total of 807 building or repair projects have been completed by the U.S. military throughout Panama (287 schools, 88 medical clinics, 372 kilometers of roads, 57 bridges, 50 water wells, and over 300 other community projects). Such projects conducted in 1990 alone saved the Panamanian Government an estimated $2 million that were used elsewhere in the reconstruction of the country. 

While the military engineers built vertical and horizontal structures, U.S. military-Panamanian medical teams provided health and dental care to children and adults and veterinarian teams provided care to domestic animals in remote areas of the country.  Medical treatment included vaccinations, medical exams, and PAPA smears for women.  Dentists offered prophylactic treatment, fillings, and extractions.  Veterinary services included vaccination and de-worming.  Additionally, a preventive medicine team trained local residents on the importance and benefits of practicing environmental, home and personal preventive medicine.  During the period of Promote Liberty, the many medical, dental and veterinarian teams served more than 73,000 patients and over 22,000 animals throughout the country. 

Support throughout those exercises/projects was provided by active-duty soldiers generally from U.S. Army South's 41st Area Support Group and the 128th Aviation Brigade (with UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters).  Security was provided by the U.S. Military Police units and Panamanian National Police.

Affected Panamanians in countless communities which received such assistance as well as Panamanian Government officials were very appreciative of the assistance.  Panamanian President Guillermo Endara stated the projects "are a symbol of the friendship between our nations... and proof of what can be accomplished when a common objective is shared , and when we put forth our best efforts."  His Minister of Public Works Alfredo Arias noted "The U.S. soldiers labored shoulder to shoulder with our farmers and workers in the quest for a better Panama, a Panama where progress will bring better education and health along with a respect for life by free citizens."

 

Scope of  Fuertes Caminos and Cosecha Amistad Projects

Fuertes Caminos '90 (80 projects): Cosecha Amistad '90 (26 projects):
50 schools; 4 medical clinics 19 schools; 7 medical clinics
70 kilometers of roads 22 kilometers of roads
17 bridges 1 footbridge; 1 sewer line
 
Fuertes Caminos '91 (166 projects): Cosecha Amistad '91 (19 projects):
89 schools; 40 medical clinics 3 schools; 2 medical clinics
120 kilometers of roads 14 medical exercises (medical care in remote areas)
4 bridges
14 water wells drilled
several buildings demolished
several other projects
Fuertes Caminos '92 (366 projects): Cosecha Amistad '92 (23 projects):
50 schools; 22 medical clinics 17 schools; 5 medical clinics
133 kilometers of roads 1 water system installed
8 bridges
2 hospitals
174 water pumps installed
Fuertes Caminos '93 (128 projects): Cosecha Amistad '93 (40 projects):
18 schools; 6 medical clinics 24 schools
27 kilometers of roads 15 water wells drilled
5 bridges 1 airfield refurbished
30 water wells drilled
64 water pumps installed
7 medical exercises (medical care in remote areas)
(No Fuertes Caminos '94  -- to avoid any perceptions of possible influence in the May 94 elections) Cosecha Amistad '94 (57 projects):
19 schools; 2 medical clinics
23 footbridge
2 airfields refurbished
2 dormitories built
5 water wells drilled
4 medical exercises (medical care in remote areas)

 

OTHER HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE ACTIVITIES

In the early stages of Operation Promote Liberty more than $2.1 million worth of medical supplies and food were distributed to Panama from the United States.  Under another humanitarian aid program, the U.S. military in 1990 donated to the Ministry of Health for several Panamanian hospitals more than $6.7 million in medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.  That aid package was arranged by the Department of Defense, with the U.S. Army Medical Material Agency in Maryland serving as the purchasing agent and Gorgas Army Community Hospital in Panama serving as transferring agent for the supplies.

In July 1990, ten mail trucks and 26 pallets of post office equipment and tools were presented to the Panamanian Postal Service by the U.S. Naval Station Panama Canal.  The items donated -- collected and shipped to Panama through the U.S. Navy's long-standing Project Handclasp -- included four one-ton trucks, six half-ton trucks, mailboxes, filing cabinets, desks, counters, sorting and storage racks, stools, tables and tools.

Alos during 1990, more than 4,500 items of excess school equipment were donated to the Ministry of Education for use in Panamanian schools.

U.S. Southern Command elements provided timely disaster relief assistance to villagers in Bocas del Toro province struck April 22, 1991 by an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale.  In a joint-service rescue mission, U.S. Army helicopters evacuated 16 seriously injured Panamanians to hospitals in Panama City, while U.S. soldiers working in that area on an engineering projects provided first aid to injured residents of Almirante.  Relief projects by U.S. soldiers included transporting water treatment equipment and supplies by road and boat to the area from U.S. bases in the Canal Area; clearing by bulldozer the only road between Almirante and Changuinola; repairing two hospitals, one medical clinic, a school, and the Changuinola airport runway; and demolishing a number of buildings devastated by the earthquake.  

 

"BUY PANAMA" PROGRAM

As part of the U.S. effort to assist Panama's economic recovery, the Southern Command established in 1990 a "Buy Panama" policy to increase the military's purchase of Panamanian goods and services, including items sold in the military commissaries and exchange/retail facilities.

Since the early 1980s, the purchasing of goods and services procured from Panamanian sources steadily increased, in keeping with provisions of the Panama Canal Treaty.  Article 8 of the Agreement in Implementation of Article 4 of the Panama Canal Treaty stated "the United States forces shall give preference to the procurement of supplies and services obtainable in the Republic of Panama.  Such preference shall apply to the maximum extent possible when such supplies and services are available as required and are compatible in quality and price to those which may be obtained from other sources."

U.S.  sanctions imposed on Panama in May 1988 through December 1989 reduced local procurements.  After Operation Just Cause, National Security Directive 34 directed resumption of preferential buying of Panamanian products.

As part of the program, a Southern Command-sponsored "Contractor Awareness Day" held in Panama City in 1990 attracted more than 2,300 merchants and contractors seeking to do business with the U.S. military.  Although about 600 of those attending were already doing business with the Southern Command, an additional 200 contractors were added to the U.S. military's list of approved contractors as a result of that event.

The total local procurement of supplies, services, and construction contracts by fiscal year was:

1990 - $102 million (goal was $80 million)

1991 - $124.7 million (goal was $110 million)

1992 - $131.7 million (goal was $120 million) -- included rent plus/

utilities for service members living in Panama City

1993 - $147.3 million

 

TERMINATION OF OPERATION PROMOTE LIBERTY

Operation Promote Liberty terminated in mid-1994.  The engineering exercise  program -- a major element of the operation -- continued annually under the name Nuevo Horizontes (New Horizons) in various locations of the country (though not of the same magnitude as before) through 1997.  That was the last year, the Southern Command and its component commands could field military personnel for such activities as well as providing oversight in light of the gradual drawdown of military personnel from Panama since 1994 in preparation for closing and transferring military bases to the Government of Panama and final departure of the remaining military personnel by the end of 1999 as mandated by the Panama Canal Treaties.  

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William H. Ormsbee, Jr.  2006