CIA Covert Operations: Panama and Nicaragua


In the 1950\'s, the repression of domestic political dissent reached near
hysteria. In the process the CIA\'s covert operations, already in progress in
Europe, expanded worldwide. By 1953, according to the 1970\'s Senate
investigation, there were major covert programs under way in 48 countries,
consisting of propaganda, paramilitary, and political action operations. In
1949, the agency\'s covert action department had about 300 employees and 47
stations. In the same period, the budget for these activities grew from $4.7
million to $82 million. In this paper I will discuss the United States\' use of
covert actions using Panama and Nicaragua as examples. I had planned on writing
my paper on Manuel Noriega and his connections with the CIA but the more I read
into him I found the major topic outlying him was much more interesting. So
with that I will continue on with this paper showing my findings on the CIA and
thier covert operations.
Covert operations have become a way of life and death for millions of
people world wide who have lost their lives to these actions. By 1980, covert
operations were costing billions of dollars. CIA Director William Casey was
quoted as saying “covert actions were the keystone of U.S. policy in the Third
World.”(Agee, 2) Throughout the CIA\'s 45 years, one president after another has
used covert operations to intervene secretly, and sometimes not so secretly , in
the domestic affairs of other countries, presuming their affairs were ours.
Almost always, money was spent for activities to prop up political forces
considered friendly to U.S. interests, or to weaken and destroy those considered
unfriendly or threatening.
The friends were easy to define, they were those who believed and acted
like us, took orders and cooperated. Until the collapse of communism in Eastern
Europe, enemies were also readily recognized: the Soviet Union and its allies,
with China having ambiguous status since the 1970\'s. But there were other
countries the CIA took actions against who were not associated with the Soviets.
Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Indonesia in 1958, Cuba in 1959, Ecuador in
1963, Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1970, Nicaragua in 1979 and Grenada in 1983 to
name a few.(Agee, 2) These governments, and others attacked by the U.S., were
left, nationalist, reform-minded, populist or uncooperative and U.S. hostility
drove some of them to seek arms and other support from the Soviet Union.
Usually, the CIA mounted covert operations to weaken and destroy the programs
supporting communism by leading and advertising anti-Communist solidarity. The
local elites, whose privileged position was also threatened by movements for
social change, were the CIA\'s natural allies.(Agee, 3) For more in-depth
examples, I will look at some covert operations in the 1980\'s.
Central America was a major focus of U.S. attention during the 1980\'s.
Through CIA covert and semi-covert operations, the U.S. tried simultaneously to
overthrow the government of Nicaragua and to destroy the movement for
revolutionary reform in El Salvador. In Nicaragua the means were terrorism and
destruction through a 10,000 man paramilitary force, along with a economic
blockade, propaganda and diplomatic pressures.(Stiles, 346) About 1% of the
population, some 35,000 people, died. In El Salvador, the CIA an U.S. military
expanded local military and security forces, and with the use of death squads,
the U.S backed forces killed over 70,000 people. Although they targeted trade
unionists, student activists, human rights advocates and peasant organizers, the
majority of the deaths were killed to instill terror. The CIA in El Salvador
used demonstration elections as public relations exercises to cover their
atrocities. The military controlled civilian government could then be renamed a
"democracy".
In the 1980\'s, in both Nicaragua and El Salvador, the U.S. introduced a
new way for exporting U.S.-style democracy, the National Endowment for
Democracy(NED). The NED allowed money to flow from the CIA to a bogus
foundation, then to U.S. private organizations like the National Student
Association(NSA), and from there to a foreign government. The money was to flow
to foundations that were fighting the “global ideological challenge.” The
projected beneficiaries were governments, political parties, media, universities,
trade unions, churches and employer associations, all traditional CIA covert
action targets.(Agee, 5) In the Soviet Bloc, the NED money would be used to
promote anti-Communist dissidence through propaganda and would support internal
opposition programs. The NED was also used as a way to spot potential recruits
as sources of intelligence and agents of influence.
Panama was an early example of political intervention through the NED.
In the 1984 election, General Manuel Noriega selected an economist, Nicholas
Barletta, as the presidential candidate for the military controlled Democratic
Revolutionary Party(PRD). The U.S.