30 years since Panama defied dictatorship

July 10, 1987, thousands of Panamanians challenged the civic-military dictatorship led by Manuel Antonio Noriega and former President of Panama Eric Arturo Delvalle. 

Despite a ban on demonstrations, on this day thirty years ago hundreds of Panamanians took to the streets calling for an end to the military dictatorship, demanding justice, freedom, and democracy.

July 10th is remembered as a day where Panamanian people risked their lives for a better future. Despite a government implemented blackout and curfew, protests continued throughout the capital and the interior of the country. Civilians, including educators, university students, union leaders, were beaten and imprisoned.

Olimpo Sáez, a member of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (Molirena), recalls a Civilian Crusade has been formed, and that movement, the main movement that adversely affected the dictatorship, was made up of various sectors of society.

"The militancy of our friends was to support the Crusade and it called for street protests," said Sáez, who acknowledged that they were convinced that only through this pressure could a message be sent to the military and to the rest of the world.

"Citizens did not have guns.  Weapons were used by the military, who used them against demonstrators.  Hundreds of demonstrators were beaten and imprisoned.

Edwin Cabrera, then leader of the Christian Democratic Party, said the demonstration came about because "society had to react to corruption scandals."

According to Cabrera, despite the unfortunate events that arose that day, citizens began to convince themselves to set up an organization beyond political parties to overthrow the dictatorship. "Political discourse was put aside, there was an awareness that the struggle was no longer based on a topic of partisan political debate. The whole of society had to react, from there began a struggle that did not stop, "he said.