An excerpt from Time magazine, May 22, 1989:
"Members of the gang that carried out the bloody attack on Panama’s opposition leaders last week did not try to hide their identities. In fact, they wore T shirts advertising themselves as members of Batallon Dignidad, or the Dignity Battalion. It is one of at least 20 paramilitary squads, with a total membership estimated at 7,000 to 10,000, that were founded last year ostensibly to help block a Yanqui invasion that Manuel Antonio Noriega insisted was imminent. According to Bush Administration officials, the squads were created with help from a small group of Cuban advisers in Panama and modeled on similar militias formed by Fidel Castro shortly after the Cuban revolution. In addition to Dignity, there are the Christopher Columbus Battalion, the St. Michael the Archangel Battalion and the Latin Liberation Battalion.
Battalion members receive military training from Panama Defense Force instructors, including practice in shooting and hand-to-hand combat. Authorities claim that recruits, who are promised a gun and modest stipend, come mainly from lower middle-class and rural backgrounds. But government critics contend that the squads include convicted criminals released early from jail in exchange for signing up. Members of the Panama Defense Force also reportedly belong; opposition politicians say they have photographs of one man changing from his army fatigues into a Dignity shirt. And diplomats in Panama City insist they have proof that the Battalion member who clubbed vice- presidential candidate Guillermo Ford last week is a sergeant in the PDF."
(Hat tip: Tambopaxi)