PANAMA CITY, DEC. 2 -- Panama ordered the expulsions today of 48 U.S. government workers in retaliation for U.S. reductions in its aid following a rock- and paint-throwing attack on the American Embassy in Panama City, officials said.
The order was the strongest action taken by the Panamanian government against the United States since Washington suspended military and economic aid after a mob led by pro-military legislators threw rocks and paint at the embassy and vehicles in June, causing $106,000 in damage.
In Washington, the State Department said the Panamanian government informed the embassy that all U.S. Aid for International Development (AID) employes must leave as soon as possible "because of our aid suspension."
"We don't have exact time frames. We are in the process now of complying with the request," spokeswoman Sondra McCarty said.
The embassy said the order will affect 48 AID staff members stationed in Panama and will force layoffs of 101 Panamanian employes.
Embassy spokeswoman Cynthia Farrell did not say when the AID personnel would leave, but a Panamanian legislator said the Americans must be gone by Tuesday.
Assistance to Panama under the AID program has amounted to $550 million in transfers, $250 million in loans and $300 million in grants, Farrell said.