Panama declares day of mourning for US invasion anniversary

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2011 file photo, a man holds a Panamanian flag as he visits the graves of people who died during the Dec. 1989 U.S. military invasion that ousted Panama's former strongman Manuel Noriega, at the Jardin de Paz cemetery in Panama City. Panama declared a day of national mourning for Friday, Dec. 19, 2019, the 30th anniversary of the U.S. invasion which ousted dictator Manuel Noriega. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, File)

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Panama declared a day of national mourning for Friday, the 30th anniversary of the U.S. invasion that ousted dictator Manuel Noriega and resulted in hundreds of deaths in the Central American nation.

The measure approved Wednesday by members of President Laurentino Cortizo’s Cabinet, a first for the country, has been a main demand of relatives of those killed in the military operation, who see it as a symbolic step toward justice for the deaths of Panamanian civilians and soldiers.

It calls for Panamanian flags to fly at half-mast on the anniversary, but not for obligatory closure of businesses and government offices.

“For 30 years Panamanian society has waited for the lives of those who died or were wounded during the invasion of Panamanian territory in 1989 to be honored,” the office of the presidency said via Twitter.

Victims’ family members met earlier this week with Cortizo, who assumed the presidency in July after running with the Revolutionary Democratic Party, which was formerly considered the political arm of the now-defunct military regime.