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Americans Support, Denouce U.S. Action in Panama With AM-Panama Bjt

December 21, 1989

Undated (AP) _ Some Americans called it necessary, a professor in California said it was an overreaction and a Panamanian dissident in Pennsylvania said U.S. military intervention in his homeland Wednesday was a ″profound error.″

In New York City, about 200 people marched through midtown to protest the invasion, chanting ″U.S. out of Panama 3/8″ and other slogans. They were jeered by numerous passersby.

″Get out of here 3/8″ banker Jay Smith shouted at the protesters. ″You’re wrong 3/8″

About 200 protesters marched in downtown Seattle, and about 100 gathered in freezing temperatures in Boston.

″Panama is a sister Caribbean country that has outrageous conditions of poverty. Military solutions bring nothing,″ Dessima Williams, a former ambassador to the Organization of American States from Grenada and a fellowship student at Radcliffe College, said at the Boston rally.

″You need a revolution here in the U.S.,″ she said to cheers from the crowd.″You need a revolution in foreign policy.″

While Americans and others had mixed opinions about President Bush’s decision to use U.S. troops in Panama, they expressed little support for Panama leader Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.

″If I had a Christmas wish it’d be that dictators like that all die,″ said Karen Romano, a 26-year-old sales assistant in Chicago.

″What we’re doing here is getting rid of a hooligan that is causing great turmoil in our hemisphere,″ said Jose Garcia De Lara, national president of San Antonio-based League of United Latin American Citizens, which claims 125,00 members nationwide.

″I think it’s a good move. Manuel Noriega is an international criminal and should be brought to justice,″ said Bernie Morgan, 62, civil court manager in Rochester, N.Y.

″I don’t always agree with an eye for an eye, but how much can you take?″ said Daniel Epps, 35, of Randallstown, Md., referring to the death of a U.S. Marine lieutenant in Panama on Saturday.

″It’s not a war on Panama. It’s a war on drugs,″ Robert Mauro, a street vendor in New York City, said in reference to drug charges against Noriega in the United States. ″The drugs are undermining our country.″

Criticism centered on the invasion early Wednesday by American troops in search of Noriega.

″This was a profound error. As a Panamanian and an professor of international law, I can’t agree with the action the U.S. has taken,″ said Miguel Antonio Bernal, a Fulbright professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and editor of the Panamanian opposition newspaper, Alternativa.

″The U.S. intervenes with thousands of people just to arrest one guy. This isn’t going to help in the long term of our relationship,″ he said.

Terry Karl, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University in California and Latin American specialist, said he thought the attack was an overreaction.

″It is particularly unfortunate of the United States to rely on force to resolve issues at a time when the Soviet Union has renounced the use of force against countries on its borders,″ Karl said.

Thomas W. Walker, director of Ohio University’s Latin America studies program, said Latin America should solve its own problems.

″We, just like the Soviets, have to learn to be more relaxed in dealing with the countries that are essentially under our wing,″ Walker said in a statement.

The executive secretary of the Quakers’ American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia condemned the military action.

″Shorn of rhetoric, this is another case of the U.S. imposing its will on another country through direct military intervention, a clear violation of international law,″ said Asia A. Bennett.

Brian Becker, who helped organize the New York protest, said the invasion violated the Constitution. ″Only Congress can declare war,″ Becker said.

Another protester, Sharon Ayling, said the invasion was an attempt to regain control of the Panama Canal. The United States has agreed to turn the canal over to Panama by the year 2000.

Condemnation also came from the family of Sarah York, a 12-year-old Michigan girl who struck up a correspondence with Noriega following his 1988 indictment on U.S. drug charges and twice has visited the dictator.

The telephone at the family’s home in the Upper Peninsula community of Negaunee was answered by a recorded message from Sarah’s mother, Pauline York: ″We join the people and the nations of the world in calling on the president and his military to end this invasion. To the Panamanian people: Todo por la patria,″ which means ″all for the motherland.″

Others expressed reservations.

″Personally, I don’t think it’s a great idea. The U.S.S.R. isn’t that happy about it and things were going good with them prior to this,″ said Kari Schumann, 23, a sales assistant from Henrietta, N.Y.

But support came from Bush’s predecessor and former public officials.

″President Bush’s decision to use U.S. military personnel to protect the lives of American citizens in Panama and to restore democracy there was correct and deserves our full support,″ former President Reagan said in a statement issued from his office in Los Angeles.

He said the administration has tried to reach a negotiated settlement to the problems in Panama, but Noriega rejected all diplomatic efforts.

″There comes a time when a president must take action. That time has come. I join all Americans in the hope that the people of Panama will soon know the freedoms to which they are entitled, and that those who have so abused their power there will be brought to justice,″ Reagan said.

Former Sen. Howard Baker, who was Senate minority leader when the Panama Canal treaty was ratified in 1977, said the assault was the ″only logical response to the situation.″

Ambler Moss Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to Panama who negotiated the Panama Canal Treaty, said public criticism from democratically elected Latin America leaders is likely.

″What Latin American leaders will say publicly and what they think privately are two different things. But they frankly are very happy to see Noriega fall,″ Moss said in Coral Gables, Fla.

″We should have done it a long time ago,″ said Arnold Hunter, a Greenville, Tenn., retiree who served in World War II and the Korean War. ″I’m sorry I’m too old to go ... I don’t feel lives are lost when it’s for a good cause.″

Robert Wesson, Hoover Institution scholar and author of a series of books on Latin America, said the intervention could be a big plus for Bush’s popularity in the United States.

’As long as the government is acting on behalf of democratic institutions, getting rid of a pretty terrible dictator, putting in power people who were elected, and not putting claims on the country or the canal, I don’t think there will be serious criticism,″ he said from Hoover, a think tank on the Stanford campus.

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