DEADLINE LIVE EXCLUSIVE: The CIA Used Manuel Noriega to Assassinate Panamanian Leader Omar Torrijos

Mario Andrade

August 4, 2009

For many years, there has been much speculation on how and why Panamanian military strongman Omar Torrijos died. General Torrijos was the Commander of the Panamanian National Guard and the de facto leader of the Panamanian Government from 1968 to 1981, when he died in a plane crash.

The official story was that General Torrijos, who signed the 1977 Panama Canal treaty with Jimmy Carter, died when the DeHavilland Twin Otter plane that was transporting him crashed during a storm.

However, a new book titled ‘Clandestine Stars’ (Estrellas Clandestinas in Spanish), written by Panamanian Colonel Roberto Diaz mentions that Torrijos was assassinated by his own lieutenant, Manuel Noriega and the CIA.

Diaz, who was Torrijo’s first cousin, said in an interview with AFP that “Torrijos was a victim of a conspiracy planned by the CIA and a few Panamanians, with Noriega among them.”

“The way they killed him was by placing a remote controlled explosive device onboard the plane,” said Diaz.

According to Diaz, prior to his death, Torrijos was considered by Washington as a ‘leftist who was too dangerous for the security of Central America.’ At that time, the new Reagan administration felt like Torrijos would not cooperate with Washington in the Sandinista conflict of Nicaragua.

“If you become an obstacle for the CIA, they simply eliminate you. Period!” said Diaz. He later stated that prior to his death, Torrijos was visited by a US intelligence operative, who asked him to be cooperative with Washington and in exchange, his country would not be in any economic problems. According to Diaz, Torrijos refused. He told the operative “I’m not against your country, but I will not accept your impositions. I’m a man of my own decisions. You tell your people that,” he allegedly said.

According to the book, Torrijos never trusted his lieutenant, Manuel Noriega. Torrijos was fully aware of Noriega’s ties to the drug cartels and the CIA. He never understood why the CIA always wanted to work with Noriega if they knew about his drug cartel links. Furthermore, Torrijos knew the CIA and Noriega wanted to kill him. He often asked for Noriega to fly with him. “If he puts a bomb onboard the plane, he will have to remove it if he flies with me,” he allegedly said.

However, on July 31 of 1981, Noriega did not fly with him and Torrijos was killed. Noriega then took power in Panama. When Noriega was arrested in 1989, and later tried in the US, he offered to bring documents to court linking the CIA to the assassination; however, the court refused to accepted them. Diaz, who just finished his term as ambassador to Peru, is calling for a new investigation on the death of Omar Torrijos.

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