Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is critically ill in hospital after undergoing emergency surgery. He is said to have suffered a hemorrhage from an earlier operation to remove a benign brain tumor.
Thays and Sandra Noriega told reporters at the Santo Tomas public hospital in Panama City that their 83-year-old father was returned to the operating room after being in intensive care earlier.
Noriega, who had been in prison for corruption and the killings of opponents during his 1983-89 regime, was transferred to house arrest Jan. 29 to prepare for the procedure, which was originally scheduled for mid-February.
Noriega, a former general and strongman, was ousted by a U.S. invasion in 1989 and jailed for years in the United States on drug charges.
He was then imprisoned in France for money laundering, before being returned in 2011 to Panama, where he had already been convicted in absentia.
Noriega broke his long silence in 2015 to ask his compatriots to forgive actions by his military regime that culminated in the U.S. invasion.
Noriega began his 2015 jailhouse interview with local network Telemetro by reading a handwritten statement in which he said his apology came after days of reflection with his family and members of the church.
He said he wasn’t motivated by any personal interest but a sincere desire to bring closure to the military era, a dark chapter in Panama’s history that left the country in ruin and hundreds dead.
“Before the altar of my conscience I’ve come to express myself in the spirit of forgiveness,” Noriega said at the time.
It was the first time the onetime CIA informant had spoken to a journalist since a 1996 interview with CNN’s Larry King from a Miami federal prison, where, following his capture by American troops, he was sent for being a major conduit for Colombian cocaine traffickers.