Panamanians in Secret Pact on Oath-Taking

From Associated Press

Panama’s new president and two vice presidents made a secret pact to say they were sworn in on Panamanian territory, although the ceremony actually took place on a U.S. military base, it was reported today.

Anticipating questions about the legitimacy of their government, President Guillermo Endara and his vice presidents swore themselves to secrecy about the ceremony at Ft. Clayton, outside Panama City, the Miami Herald reported, citing sources who demanded anonymity.

Responding to previous reports that he was sworn in at a U.S. base during the U.S. invasion that ousted Panamanian ruler Gen. Manuel A. Noriega, Endara told the Associated Press Saturday:


“I was sworn in on Panamanian territory, in a Panamanian home after 1 a.m. (Dec. 20). Then in the morning we went to Ft. Clayton.”

He did not identify the home’s owners.

Among those who signed the swearing-in document were Endara, First Vice President Ricardo Arias Calderon and Second Vice President Guillermo Ford. Also present were the vice presidents’ wives and several U.S. and Panamanian officials, the paper said.

“We were taken to Ft. Clayton at about midnight, and told we couldn’t make outside phone calls or leave the room,” one participant told the newspaper. “The ceremony took place at about 2 a.m. (Dec. 20), and we agreed to say it had taken place in Panamanian territory.”

The group stayed in a building at Ft. Clayton until the afternoon of Dec. 20, when two mortar shots fired by Noriega forces hit the ground nearby.

Then they were shuttled to another building at the base, where they remained until Thursday morning, about 30 hours after the invasion started, the newspaper reported.

Then they went to Panama’s Legislative Assembly building, where U.S. forces established Endara’s first provisional headquarters, the paper said.