Hundreds of women smashed windows, blocked streets with flaming barricades and clashed with riot police Saturday in a violent demonstration demanding the ouster of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.
Police fired tear gas and birdshot as the demonstrators rallied on the north side of the capital. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.The protesters set up blazing barricades of trash and tires across some streets in the Batania working people's section of the city and hurled rocks at police.
Some windows in homes and shops were shattered by stones.
The demonstrators, members of a newly formed Union of Civic Women, gathered at 3 p.m. EDT at the Roman Catholic Church of Perpetuo Socorro in Batania for a special Mass. They said they prayed to God "to bring conscience" to the Panamanian military to force Noriega to resign.
Noriega, chief of Panama's Defense Forces and the country's strongman, is under indictment by a grand jury in federal courts in Florida on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.
The Reagan administration has imposed economic sanctions on Panama, including freezing Panamanian assets in the United States, in an effort to oust Noriega. The measures have caused an acute cash shortage in Panama that has helped spur anti-Noriega protests.
After the Mass, the women rallied outside the church waving white handkerchiefs as a sign of protest. They marched carrying rosaries and chanting "Justice, justice," and "We want hospitals, we want medicines."
The economic crisis has forced many hospitals to close or restrict services and reduce staff. Doctors and pharmacists say there is an acute shortage of medicines.
Riot squads in trucks used water cannons that sprayed a mixture of tear gas and water at the demonstrators.
The women scattered, but gathered again in small groups and began pelting police squads and the cannon-trucks with rocks and trash. Police retaliated by firing tear gas and birdshot into the air.
There have been few anti-government demonstrations here in recent days. On April 11, hundreds of teachers demonstrated peacefully for Noriega's removal.