Ex-Panama dictator Manuel Noriega in critical condition after brain surgeries

The 83-year-old Noriega ruled Panama from 1983 to 1989, spying for the CIA before his drug trafficking and brutal regime sparked a massive US invasion

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 10:54pm

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is in critical condition after undergoing two brain surgeries.

Noriega, 83, underwent the first procedure Tuesday morning to remove a benign tumour from his brain. But after that surgery, doctors discovered a haemorrhage that forced them to go back in that afternoon, his daughters and lawyer said.

He was listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit of Santo Tomas public hospital in Panama City, attorney Ezra Angel said Tuesday night.

Angel said doctors had succeeded in stopping the bleeding during the second procedure and Noriega was returned to intensive care.

“He is sedated,” the lawyer said. “His condition is critical after undergoing a (second) open brain surgery in less than eight hours.”

Officials at the hospital did not comment or return calls.

Earlier Tuesday, Noriega’s daughters, Thays and Sandra Noriega, said their father was returned to the operating room after doctors detected bleeding following the first operation to remove the tumour.

The tumour was detected in the months after Noriega returned to Panama in December 2011 and was imprisoned for corruption and the killings of political opponents during his reign in the 1980s.

Doctors have said it grew unexpectedly recently and threatened the life of the former dictator, who has also suffered from vascular ailments and uses a wheelchair.

Noriega was transferred from prison to house arrest January 29 to prepare for the procedure, which was originally scheduled for mid-February.

Noriega was a military intelligence officer who long worked for the CIA and who ruled his Central American country from 1983 until US forces invaded in 1989 to topple and capture him.

Relations between Noriega and the United States had deteriorated as he defied pressure from then US president Ronald Reagan to stand down, and as he appeared to shift allegiance to the then-Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold war.

After his ouster, Noriega was taken to the United States, where he was tried and imprisoned on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

In 2010, Noriega was extradited to France, where he was convicted on money laundering charges, then extradited to Panama in 2011, where he was sentenced for the disappearance of political opponents during his time in power.

The former dictator is currently serving three 20-year sentences in Panama for those rights abuses.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Reuters