Panama's economy has slumped by between 10 and 20 percent and is in a deep recession because of U.S. economic sanctions aimed at ousting Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, Finance Minister Orville K. Goodin says.
Goodin told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that President Reagan's "emergency policy" of imposing economic sanctions on Panama to oust the military strongman was "ridiculous."But he said the sanctions have hurt, cutting the country's economic production by an estimated 10 to 20 percent.
"It is not the government that suffers because of these sanctions, it is the people of Panama," Goodin said.
Goodin said that the United States economic sanctions had caused a "profound recession," in the country.
The U.S. sanctions were imposed after a string of events this year beginning with the indictment of Noriega on drug trafficking charges in February by two federal grand juries in Florida.
Later that month, deposed President Eric Arturo Delvalle tried to fire Noriega as head of Panama's armed forces. But the day after Delvalle's attempt to fire the general, the Noriega-dominated National Assembly ousted Delvalle as president.
The United States, which still recognizes Delvalle as the legitimate president of Panama, later moved to freeze $50 million in Panamanian government funds in United States banks. Washington imposed other sanctions aimed at strangling the Panamanian economy and bringing about Noriega's departure.
Goodin said at the news conference the sanctions violate both a 1903 treaty giving the United States control over the Panama Canal and a 1978 treaty that returns the vital waterway to Panamanian control by the turn of the century.
Goodin said the economic sanmctions have caused an artificial shortage of circulating currency, adding that "even if the United States lifted the economic sanctions today, Panama has already suffered greatly."
The only paper money currently used in Panama is the U.S. dollar.
"We are thinking about introducing other currencies into the domestic economy as an experiment," Goodin said.