FT. CLAYTON, Panama — Two top U.S. military officers blasted Gen. Manuel A. Noriega as a "dime store dictator" and his government as "illegitimate" in unprecedented public criticism during a change-of-command ceremony here Friday.
Gen. Frederick F. Woerner Jr., commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command, with headquarters in Panama, presided over a ceremony handing control of the U.S. Army South to Brig. Gen. Marc Cisneros. Cisneros replaces Gen. Bernard Loeffke.
Woerner and Cisneros made angry references to the more than yearlong war of nerves between the Southern Command and the Panama Defense Forces.
"Many over the last two years have . . . been harassed and unfairly treated by the Panama Defense Forces and an illegitimate Panamanian government created by Manuel Noriega," Woerner said, pointedly omiting Noriega's title as general.
In his speech, Cisneros did not mention Noriega by name but said: "Any time any dime store dictator regime, or its press, criticizes Gen. Woerner or myself, I take heart that we do indeed stand for freedom's cause."