The imprisoned Manuel Noriega, Panama’s former dictator, is asking for forgiveness from his country for his past actions.
In his first interview since a 1996 sit down with CNN’s Larry King, Noriega told local television network Telemetro that he wants to “close the cycle of the military era as the last commander of that group asking for forgiveness.”
In response to specific questions about the still unresolved murders of two prominent opponents, Noriega said that he was “totally at peace” with himself and that he didn’t want to distract from the “solemnity” of his apology.
Noriega claims that his apology is not motivated by any self-interest, and that he genuinely wishes to bring closure to the military era the ended with the U.S. invasion of Panama and his arrest in 1989. However, some see his apology as a ploy to garner good will toward him and eventually achieve house arrest. At the age of 81, his lawyers have argued that he should be granted house arrest.
While not everyone may be buying the sincerity of Noriega’s apology, he is getting some high-level support. Current President Juan Carlos Varela has urged Panamanians to forgive the former dictator, saying, “He asked forgiveness and I believe as a Christian that all of us must forgive. The Panamanian people have already overcome that period of the dictatorship.”
Panama’s Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa echoed Varela’s message of forgiveness, saying that Noreiga’s apology would be the right step forward for the country to “turn the page” on its military past.
After completing a 20-year sentence in the United States for drug charges, in 2010 Noriega was extradited to France to serve time for money laundering. He then was sent to Panama in 2011 to serve a 60-year sentence for murder, corruption, and embezzlement during the military’s three-decade rule.