Operation Just Cause was the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. It resulted in the ouster of Panama's military leader, Manuel Noriega, the dissolution of the Panamanian armed forces, and the installation of President Guillermo Endara.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Army Military History Institute

Download this file

  • On December 20, 1989, the United States began “Operation Just Cause,” a large-scale invasion of Panama conducted to remove its leader, General Manuel Noriega, from power. 
     
    Noriega had been a Cold War ally of the United States since the 1970s. He supported the U.S. in the containment of communism in Central America. However, Noriega was also a dictator who helped make Panama a haven for drug trafficking and also accepted aid from communist nations such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Libya.
     
    Operation Just Cause was protested by the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and other international organizations. Nevertheless, Noriega was convicted of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering—the first time that a U.S. jury convicted a foreign leader in a criminal case. After serving prison sentences in the United States and France, Noriega is currently serving a prison sentence in Panama. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    ally Noun

    person or group who supports and cooperates with another person or group.

    Cold War Noun

    (1947-1991) conflict between the Soviet Union (and its allies) and the United States (and its allies). The two sides never confronted each other directly.

    communism Noun

    type of economy where all property, including land, factories and companies, is held by the government.

    containment Noun

    act or policy of limiting the spread of an idea or influence.

    convict Verb

    to find someone guilty of an illegal act.

    criminal case Noun

    legal dispute involving the government.

    dictator Noun

    person with complete control of a government.

    drug trafficking Noun

    buying, selling and transporting of illegal drugs.

    haven Noun

    safe place.

    international organization Noun

    unit made up of governments or groups in different countries, usually for a specific purpose.

    Encyclopedic Entry: international organization
    invasion Noun

    an attack or move to take possession.

    jury Noun

    group of people selected to determine facts in a specific case.

    Encyclopedic Entry: jury
    money laundering Noun

    process by which the financial proceeds from a criminal activity are made to appear "clean"—as if they were profits from legal activities.

    prison Noun

    buildings that house convicted criminals and people accused of a crime and awaiting trial.

    protest noun, verb

    demonstration against a policy or action.

    racketeering Noun

    behavior in which a person or organization establishes a "racket," or organized illegal activity.