Former dictator Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who has been in prison in Panama since last December, was transferred on Sunday to a hospital in this capital with a diagnosis of “hypertension with the possibility of a cerebral hemorrhage,” the government announced in a communique, although initial medical exams performed on him there found that his condition was “normal.”
Noriega, who will be 78 on Feb. 11, was moved “from his cell in the El Renacer Penitentiary Center - located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the capital - to the Santo Tomas Hospital” in Panama City after a diagnosis of hypertension and a possible stroke, according to a National Police communique citing a member of the prison’s medical staff.
Panama’s health minister, Franklin Vergara, reported that Noriega was subjected to a series of exams that determined his condition was “normal,” but he will be kept under observation for at least 24 hours to see how his situation evolves.
The former general “is conscious, oriented, he has not had any injury with any effect. After the 24-hour observation the angioresonance (test) will be repeated (to determine) if he has any vascular problem that may be permanent,” Vergara told reporters in the capital.
Noriega, who was the de facto leader of Panama from 1983 to 1989, was returned on Dec. 11 to the country after serving 21 years in U.S. and French prisons for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Deposed in 1989 by a U.S. invasion, the former general faces in Panama a total sentence of 60 years behind bars for assorted crimes ranging from murder and human rights violation to deforestation.
The Government Ministry announced on Dec. 14 that a medical examination revealed Noriega was suffering from arterial hypertension, cerebrovascular accident (i.e. stroke), peptic ulcers and allergic rhinitis.
The former strongman’s attorneys have said that he should be placed under house arrest - rather than continue to live in a prison cell - due to his advanced age and poor state of health, a request rejected by relatives of his regime’s victims.