December 7, 1989
Honorable James A. Baker Secretary
Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
A year and a half ago, the entire episcopate of the Catholic Church in Panama issued a detailed pastoral message that was both forceful and balanced in which, among other points, they denounced the economic sanctions imposed on Panama by our government.
Both as Church and as citizens, they wrote, "we reject these measures which violate national sovereignty. We believe that, given the dependency of our economy, they go beyond any strategy of political pressure and become a threat to the life of our people. They are, therefore, moraily unjust. Thus we call for their immediate suspension."
Last Sunday, at the start of the Season of Advent, the bishops of Panama had read in all their churches a new pastoral message with an even more dire assessment of the national situation:
- a palpable deterioration of constitutional life and the judicial system;
- ever-increasing violation of human rights;
- deepening unemployment rates;
- more violence of arrest, imprisonment, torture, exile, disappearance and death.
The bishops decry the "double aggression" suffered by the Panamanian people, that which the regime in power imposes internally, and the aggression from abroad: expressed in foreign military actions on our own soil, in the provocative publicity about supposed North American plans to over - throw the Panamanian regime, and in the economic sanctions that we bishops have pointed out on previous occasions as immoral because they go against the integrity and quality of life of our people.
Mr. Secretary, this is the third time in four months that the voice of the Panamanian hierarchy has been raised to call for an end to the economic sanctions imposed by our government. The United States Catholic Conference, representing the bishops of this country, has similarly and repeatedly expressed our solidarity with and support for the Panamanian bishops in their call to end the sanctions.
These calls have apparently not been heard. The sanctions have not been lifted, they continue to impose an ever-worsening hardship upon the people of Panama, especially the poorest, they have had no discernible effect in improving the political configuration of the country and, as we have recently heard, further sanctions -- affecting Panama's leading role of providing flags of convenience to much of the world's shipping trade -- are now to be imposed.
Whatever good intentions may lie behind our government's policy toward Panama, its continued ineffectiveness speaks far louder than the worthiness of the goal. It is time to change; time at least to relieve some of the needless suffering that this very policy has imposed.
I urge you, as strongly as I can, to reconsider the policy of economic sanctions.
Reverend Monsignor Robert N. Lynch