Republic of Panama
The territory of what is today the Republic of Panama (República de Panamá) was part of Colombia between 1830 and 1903, and thereafter was governed as a constitutional democracy until 1968. A military coup in that year under Lieutenant Colonel Omar Torrijos led to the establishment of a military regime and the repression of political opposition. General Manuel Noriega took control of the civilian government when Torrijos was killed in a mysterious plane crash, declaring himself commander of the newly consolidated Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) as well as leader of the nation.
Ostensibly an ally of the United States, under Noriega the Panamanian government became embroidered in numerous illegal activities, including electoral fraud, money laundering, drug and human trafficking, and the torture and execution of political dissidents. When economic sanctions and the freezing of Panamanian economic assets within the USA amounted to nothing, the United States authorized the use of force against Panama in order to restore democracy and secure the safety of the Panama Canal. Operation Just Cause or the US Invasion of Panama (December 20, 1989 to January 3, 1990) resulted in the capture of General Noriega, the defeat of the PDF, and the restoration of a civilian government. In the aftermath, the PDF was abolished in 1990 under President Guillermo Endara and replaced by the Panamanian Public Forces, which currently consists of the National Police (Policía Nacional), National Borders Service (Servicio Nacional de Fronteras), National Aeronaval Service (Servicio Nacional Aeronaval), and the Institutional Protection Services (Servico de Protección Institucional).
General Manuel Noriega was himself a curious character and frequently appeared in public wearing camouflage uniforms from various foreign nations, often embellished with numerous airborne and special operations insignia. Nevertheless, the PDF were largely outfitted in plain olive green uniforms, although some units did receive locally-produced camouflage uniforms. The use of camouflage by units of the Panamanian Public Forces is generally limited to those with special duties.
Panamanian Camouflage Patterns
- Some units of the PDF were issued with a locally-produced copy of the US 2nd generation/transitional ERDL camouflage pattern. Very similar to the American-made original, the uniforms were tailored to PDF standards and appropriately marked.
- The PDF also issued a modified copy of the US m81 woodland camouflage design, having slightly different colors and incorporating the letters FFDD (Fuerzas de Defensa) into the design. As with the leaf pattern uniforms, these were locally-produced and tailored to PDF standards.
- Some PDF units, particularly those who had trained with or come into contact with US military personnel, are known to have worn surplus US m81 woodland camouflage BDUs. Current style BDUs are also worn by special units of the Policia Nacional
- Members of the Servicio de Protección Institucional (SPI) have been documented wearing this dark tiger stripe pattern camouflage, very similar to an old pattern worn by personnel in El Salvador during the early 1980s.
- The US-designed pixelated Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) is today worn by the Unidad de Fuerzas Especiales (UFE), Grupo de Accion Policial (GAP), and the Grupo de Operaciones Especiales (GOE) of the Panamanian National Police. Uniforms are similar to the ACU.
- Units of the Servicio Nacional Aeronaval and Servicio Nacional de Fronteras currently wear a copy of the USMC MARPAT temperate pattern camouflage.
- Recently, the Police special operations team that took part in Fuerzas Comando 2012 wore a commercially-produced urban digital pattern seen here.
- Another recent adoption by at least one unit of the Public Forces has been the increasingly ubiquitous Multicam pattern.
- The Sistema Nacional de Proteccion Civil (National System of Civil Protection) or SINAPROC is a national agency tasked with providing protection and assistance to the population in the event of natural disasters or accidents. They also provide search and rescue services. Some personnel of this agency wear a brightly colored camouflage scheme with an orange-black colorway, seen here.