San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Strongman Noriega hospitalized

Panama City.- Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was transferred from prison to a hospital Wednesday after suffering a respiratory infection, one of his daughters said.

Thais Noriega, the youngest of his three daughters, said her father was taken to the Santo Tomas Hospital in Panama City because he had bronchitis and was running a high fever.

“It’s not a routine checkup, and he didn’t have an appointment. He’s had a fever since yesterday, and they are going to keep him hospitalized today,” she said on Wednesday.

The 78-year-old has been imprisoned in El Renacer Penitentiary on the banks of the Panama Canal since Dec. 11, 2011, when he was brought back to the country after 21 years in prison in the United States and France on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Noriega, a former CIA informer who was overthrown in a U.S. invasion in 1989, has been in and out of the Santo Tomas Hospital three times since his return.

His lawyers, who say he is in poor health, have asked that the former general be allowed to serve out his term in a hospital setting or at home. Panama’s courts have yet to respond to the request.

Noriega, who ruled the country from 1983 to 1989, is serving three 20-year prison terms for the disappearance of opponents during his years in power.

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