This collection concerns United States relations with Panama, particularly Operation Just Cause and its aftermath. The United States grew increasingly displeased with the regime of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega in the late 1980s as Noriega's connections with South American drug cartels became evident. In the summer of 1989, the U.S. became more concerned after Noriega subverted the electoral process and encouraged violence against opposition political opponents. In December 1989, following attacks on members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Panama, the United States struck back in Operation Just Cause, its mission to restore democratic institutions in Panama and arrest Noriega for his role in international drug smuggling. The brief military operation proved successful, and Noriega, after first alluding capture and taking refuge in the Papal Nuncio's residence, surrendered to U.S. authorities. He was transported back to the United States, stood trial on numerous drug-related charges, and was convicted and sentenced to prison.
This collection includes letters, memoranda, reports, papers, cables, and notes related to all aspects of our relations with Panama. Materials document high-level diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation in Panama as well as plans and preparations for military action there. Additional materials provide insight into the actual military operations, loss of American military personnel, and civilian and military casualties suffered by Panama. The materials document U.S. relations with other Latin American countries regarding the Panama crisis. Some letters and memoranda document Congressional interactions over sanctions and military operations against Panama. Internal staff deliberations regarding post-operation policy provide insights into the manner and methods by which the United States supported the reestablishment of democratic institutions and police forces within Panama. However, again, much of this material remains closed currently.