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June Today in Terrorism

June 29, 1990: Anti-American terrorists attack US embassy in Panama

On June 29, 1990 members of the Panamanian M-20 fired shots at the US embassy in Panama City: there were no casualties.

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA – At a time when a lot of people are re-visiting colonialism it is interesting to look at earlier attacks by anti-colonial terrorist groups.

The history of Panama is a very interesting one. This snake-like nation at the southern tip of Central America is a fairly recent one. Did you know that prior to 1903 it was part of Colombia? So what happened?

Well, US President Teddy Roosevelt did.

The Americans really wanted to build a canal across the isthmus (the French had tried – and failed, in large part due to workers’ deaths from yellow fever) – a great location given its relatively slender size – to cut out the lengthy and laborious voyage around the southern tip of Chile. The US supported Panamanians who wanted to leave Colombia anyway, and sent warships and Marines to bolster their efforts. The canal was completed in 1914 and the rest is, as they say, history.

A man, a plan, a can(al) (Photo: AP, Public Domain)

Not everyone liked the idea, then or now. This should surprise a grand total of nobody as foreign interference in the affairs of other states is seldom welcome.

On this day in 1990

Members of the Panamanian M-20 (full name Movimiento 20 de Diciembre, consisting of members of the Defence Forces of Panama during Manuel Noriega’s government), a virulently anti-US group, fired shots at the US embassy in Panama City. There were no casualties.

M-20 carried out a number of low-level attacks on US and Panamanian government targets in the early 1990s. Almost a century after the canal was built it seems that dislike of the foreigner is still rampant.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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