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Panama: Information on the M-20

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 October 1992
Citation / Document Symbol PAN11807
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Panama: Information on the M-20, 1 October 1992, PAN11807, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The reports currently available to the DIRB do not provide conclusive information on the M-20 terrorist or guerrilla group. Some of the available documents, attached to this Response, describe the M-20 as an "Anti-United States" group formed by persons who were members of the Defence Forces of Panama during Manuel Noriega's government. The documents also mention the possibility that there is no real group behind the name M-20, stating that its alleged existence may be a propaganda scheme to justify the continued presence of United States troops and/or questionable activities by the government of Guillermo Endara.

The first reference on the M-20 in the attached documents mentions the distribution of leaflets in Chiriqui province in March 1990 announcing that the group would attack United States and Panamanian government targets (Central America Report 28 Sept. 1990, 296). The same report mentions that some bombings in Panama City had been attributed to the M-20. The other attachments also mention a few attacks attributed to the M-20, the latest one being a machine-gun attack on a guard post at a United States Air Force base a few days before the arrival of George Bush (Latin American Newsletters 16 July 1992, 6). The available sources do not report any casualties as a result of M-20 attacks nor arrests of any members.

One of the attached reports, "Dubious Conspiracies Hide Reality", states:

A recent example of the President's modus operandi was a document sent to all Panamanian media denouncing his professed long-time nemesis, the alleged M-20 guerrilla force, also known as "the 20th of December Movement." Endara's proclamation claimed that the M-20 is "a major military force" purporting to lead a struggle "for true democracy in Panama." He says they demand the freeing of political prisoners and compliance with the Torrijos-Carter treaties and are calling on all Panamanian security forces to join in a rebellion against the government. Endara claims the force is led by ex-Commander Carlos Saldaña, alias "Superman," chief of the Transit Police in 1989, and ex-major Albicianes Rodríguez (Central America Report 28 Feb. 1992, 51).

Observers say that the document, in the form of an official report based on government security force investigations, seeks to verify Endara's ongoing claims of "subversive forces" within the country, focusing on three presumed guerrilla groups: the M-20, the Torrijista Resistance, and the National Torrijista Liberation Movement (MTLN) all supposedly composed of ex-members of Noriega's former elite battalions (Ibid.).

The available sources do not report any casualties as a result of M-20 attacks nor arrests of any members.


Central America Report [Guatemala]. 28 February 1992. "Panama: Dubious Conspiracies Hide Reality."

. 28 September 1990. "Panama: Emerging Resistance Movement?"

Latin American Newsletters. 16 July 1992. Latin American Regional Reports: Mexico & Central America. "Panama." London: Latin American Newsletters.


Central America Report [Guatemala]. 5 June 1992. "Panama: War on Drugs or Dissenters?"

. 28 February 1992. "Panama: Dubious Conspiracies Hide Reality."

. 7 February 1992. "Government Creates Anti-Terror Force."

. 24 January 1992. "Panama: A Panorama of Crisis."

. 13 July 1990. "Panama: Fallout Continues From U.S. Invasion."

. 28 September 1990. "Panama: Emerging Resistance Movement?"

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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