The United States was responsible for the death of Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos to frustrate his moves towards a peaceful solution to the conflicts in Central America at the time, says a former military commander.
"What happened to Omar was a criminal conspiracy" says retired Colonel Roberto Diaz Herrera, cousin and secretary of Torrijos during his rule in the soon to be published book that the AFP agency has access to.
Diaz, 74, was Panama’s Ambassador to Lima (2004-2009).
“For unclear geopolitical reasons the operation had to be conducted by the CIA and other military establishments and American security, " says Diaz.
In his work, to be published in late February, Diaz includes anecdotes, testimonies and documents related to the general who led the Panamanian regime from the coup of 1968 until his death.
Torrijos died on July 31, 1981 when the plane he was traveling in was lost and fell to the ground because of an accident, according to the official version, but Diaz says the device was subjected to an attack using explosives.
The Panamanian nationalist leader in 1977, sat next to U.S. President Jimmy Carter and signed the treaties that ceded sovereignty of the Canal to Panama in late 1999.
According to Diaz, Torrijos intended to use his influence with both governments and guerrillas in Central America, to prevent radicalism leading to civil and political armed clashes that were taking place in the region, something that Washington opposed, preferring a military defeat of the left. "Torrijos sought peace, not war," he says in the book.
The ex militar says Torrijos's death and the coming to power of General Manuel Antonio Noriega was sought by the the United States. Noriega was then serving as chief of intelligence, presumably on the CIA payroll. The Reagan administration required "a man controllable and obedient" and Noriega, who came to power in 1983, "fully met these requirements," says the retired officer. "They knew in detail his ties to drug trafficking and criminal adventures, which he had grabbed by the testicles," he added.
According to Diaz, the U.S. used to Noriega in its plan to deliver weapons financed by selling drugs to the opponents of the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega, a scandal known as the Iran-Contra connection.
In 1989, the United States invaded Panama and overthrew Noriega, who is now serving his sentence in a Panamanian prison for the disappearance of opponents.
Before being extradited to Panama in December 2011, Noriega served 21 years in prison in the United States and France for drug trafficking and money laundering.
Diaz, who was imprisoned and exiled in Venezuela by the Noriega regime, said there was "no doubt" that the former dictator "participated in the conspiracy" gainst Torrijos. "Among all the secrets in the mind" of Noriega the plot that ended the life of General Torrijos must be one of the greatest," says the book.