PANAMA CITY — Panama's strongman, Gen. Manuel A. Noriega, called Monday for the U.S. Southern Command to withdraw from Panama.
The Southern Command oversees 10,000 soldiers in Panama, protects the Canal Zone and directs all U.S. military activity in South and Central America.
In a television speech, Noriega said U.S. charges that he was involved in drug trafficking were politically motivated, and he backed a Panama Defense Forces call to oust the U.S. regional military headquarters. He was indicted Friday by federal grand juries in Miami and Tampa, Fla., on charges of helping Colombian cocaine traffickers in return for payoffs in the millions of dollars.
Defense Forces officers, in a show of support for their commander, asked President Eric A. Delvalle to expel the Southern Command. Delvalle is considered a figurehead, with Noriega holding true power.