Is Panama Worth the Agony?

Why Washington is tying itself into knots, and what the Administration can do

What a difference five years can make. In 1984, when Panama staged its last presidential election, the exercise in democracy proved a thuggish sham. Tabulation sheets vanished, vote counting was suspiciously slow, and when citizens stormed the streets in protest, soldiers fired on the crowds with rifles. Through it all, the U.S. remained silent. Five months later, as protesters chanted, "Fraud! Fraud!," Panama inaugurated Nicolas Ardito Barletta, the candidate favored by Manuel Antonio Noriega -- and the man, many Panamanians charged, handpicked by then U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz.

True, the blatancy of the fraud was more pronounced this time...

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