Ex-dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, who ruled Panama de facto between 1983 and 1989, until he was overthrown by a US invasion, died Monday at the age of 83 in a Panamanian public hospital, where he had been held in critical condition since March.
“This is a moment of pain,” said his daughter Sandra while fleeing the media, this morning, at the exit of the Hospital Santo Tomás, the most important in the country and which entered Noriega on March 6, the day before Of having a benign brain tumor excised.
This is the sole statement of the family of the exgeneral, who, according to local media, died at 11 pm local time Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday), after spending more than two months in intensive care after being operated.
Defending attorney from former “strong man” of Panama, Ezra Angel, only responded to Efe with a “confirmed” when asked about the death of Noriega, while asking for respect for the family at the moment.
Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela said in a message on Twitter that the death of Noriega “closes a chapter of history” of the Central American country.
“Death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter of our history; Their daughters and their families deserve a funeral in peace, “said Varela in the social network.
The “face of pineapple”, as it was popularly known, ruled Panama with an iron fist between 1983 and 1989. He was a well-known CIA agent specializing in counterintelligence operations and his detractors accused him of participating in drug trafficking and Smuggling of arms.
He spent his last days in critical condition in the capital hospital, which came from the home of his daughter Sandra thanks to the temporary house arrest authorized by the Justice on January 28, to adequately meet the pre and postoperative.
The exdicter returned home after 27 years in prison, 22 of them in the US and France for drug trafficking and money laundering, and 5 of the 60 that he had to purge in Panama for crimes that include homicide and serious violations of human rights.
The day before, on January 27, Noriega declared for the first time before a judge in his country and proclaimed his innocence of the charges of murder by which he was condemned in absence.
“With my heart, under the name of God, I had nothing to do with the death of any of these people,” Noriega said. “There was always a permanent conspiracy against me, but I’m here in the front, without cowardice,” added the exgeneral.
Noriega was convicted in Panama’s absence for the disappearance and homicide of leftist guerrilla leader Hugo Spadafora over the death of military opponent Moises Giroldi and the so-called “Albrook Massacre” in 1989, when 9 military men were killed and attempted to overthrow him.
“God does his thing,” said Petra Ortega, widow of the exappancy Ismael Ortega, one of the victims of that massacre, referring to the death of the exgeneral.
“He never said who else was involved in the murders,” Ortega told local TVN.
The rupture of Noriega’s silence about the fate of many missing and dead has been one of the biggest claims of Panamanian society.
During the time that Noriega was in intensive care in the hospital, all sorts of conjectures and versions were woven about his state of health and the dissemination of false information about his death became recurrent.
Faced with constant speculation, the family decided to suspend statements about the health condition of the exgeneral, because, his lawyer told Efe last April, “this should not be made a media circus.”
Noriega was extradited to Panama on December 11, 2011 after serving more than 20 years in jail in the United States and France.
In 2010, Panamanian Justice opened a new criminal case against him for his alleged responsibility for the disappearance in 1970, and later death of leftist leader Heliodoro Portugal, but the trial was suspended a year ago because of the health problems that afflicted the Exdicter. EFE