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Casualties in Panama

November 12, 1990

Someone is misinformed (or is trying to misinform others) about the number of Panamanians killed by U.S. forces.

According to the U.S. Southern Command, 515 Panamanians were killed. According to both the Panamanian government and the "independent and respected" Panamanian Committee for Human Rights, about 570 Panamanians were killed. According to the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, which is reported to have conducted months of on-site investigations with civilians, medical personnel, political and union leaders, U.S. military leaders, several human rights organizations, religious leaders and others, between 1,000 and 4,000 Panamanians were killed.

Whom are we to believe? Roberto Troncoso, president of the Panamanian Committee for Human Rights, is quoted as stating: "There are no mass graves, no hidden cemeteries." Yet the photograph accompanying your article depicts just such a mass grave.

Indeed, 14 mass graves have been documented. In late April and early May, one such grave was exhumed at Jardin de Paz in Panama. It contained 124 bodies.

MITCHELL C. TILNER, Van Nuys

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