From Mon Jul 2 12:40:27 2001
Date: Sun, 1 Jul 2001 16:18:53 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <>
Subject: Panamanian Dictator A US Operative
Article: 121962
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Late Panamanian Dictator Said US Spy

Associated Press, 27 June 2001, filed at 5:34 a.m. ET

PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP)—The late Panamanian dictator who signed the accords that led to the U.S. handover of the Panama Canal in 1999 worked as an informant for U.S. military intelligence, Panamanian media reported.

Omar Torrijos, who seized power in a 1968 coup and ruled Panama until he was killed in a plane crash in 1981, signed the Panama Canal treaties with President Carter, which cleared the way for the handover of the canal to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999.

According to reports Monday in daily newspapers La Prensa and El Panama America, Torrijos was recruited to work for U.S. military intelligence in October, 1955, when he was a captain in the national guard, in charge of the international airport in Panama City.

The papers cited a document reportedly sent to Carter's then-national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, on Oct. 14, 1977, that said Torrijos had agreed to spy to compensate for his low salary.

He was paid $25 a month for his work, and continued to work as an informant after he was demoted from his captain's position in 1959 for lack of productivity and irregularity in his reports, the newspapers said. Eventually, his salary as an informant was increased to $300, the reports said.

His job was to report on the activity of the national guard and later, as he gained greater prominence, on political issues, labor and student movements and the influence of China and the Soviet Union, the newspapers said.

According to the report, Torrijos was less communicative with his U.S. contacts after he ousted the civilian government of President Arnulfo Arias in a military coup.

Torrijos' former colleagues and family members dismissed the reports.

They seem to be speculation with the aim of doing political damage, said former Gen. Ruben Dario Paredes, who took over the national guard after Torrijos' death.

Torrijos' nephew, Hugo Torrijos, said the reports were an attempt to obscure the great success of Torrijos and what he signified for the (country's) complete sovereignty and other great social achievements in Panama.

There was no immediate reaction from officials in Washington.

Manuel Noriega, who took control of the army after Torrijos' death and ruled the country through rigged elections, was believed to have collaborated with the CIA in the 1970s.

Noriega fell in disgrace after being linked to drug traffickers. The United States invaded Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, and removed Noriega from power. He is now serving a 40-year sentence in Florida for drug-related crimes.