Panamanian President Guillermo Endara said the failure of an uprising by police officers was a triumph of democracy over militarism, but the incident left one dead and showed the vulnerability of his government.
Endara said one Panamanian was killed and one injured when hundreds of U.S. troops chased down and arrested policemen who had taken control of police headquarters early Wednesday morning."One more time, democracy triumphs," Endara said at a news conference after rebel leader Eduardo Herrera Hassan had been detained.
Endara had no details of the killing. One Panamanian television station said two people had been killed but the report could not be independently confirmed.
The Southern Command had no comment on deaths or injuries. Two Panamanian news photographers were also injured, according to Panamanian TV.
Herrera, a former police chief, was fired and jailed in October for allegedly plotting against the government. He escaped Tuesday in a daring helicopter rescue and took control of police headquarters with about 100 rebel police.
About 500 U.S. troops based in Panama responded to Endara's call for help and surrounded police headquarters, the U.S. Southern Command said.
It was the largest movement of U.S. troops outside their bases since the Dec. 20, 1989, invasion that ousted dictator Manuel Noriega.
Last week, U.S. officials announced the withdrawal of the last 150 U.S. troops who had been assisting Panamanian police throughout the country.
Endara, who was installed during the invasion, has been plagued by deep economic troubles as well as discontent within the police force.
Many Panamanians distrust the force because it was built from Noriega's army.
Herrera - a former aide to Noriega who later turned against the strongman - was named police chief just after the invasion, but was known to oppose government plans to convert the military into a police force carrying pistols and nightsticks instead of machine guns.
Herrera denied that he was leading a coup. He called on the government to adopt reforms that would improve the moral of the 12,000-member force.
Herrera is being held at Renacer Prison, 10 miles north of Panama City, and 36 policemen are also in custody, Vice President Ricardo Arias Calderon said.