WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration on Friday designated Panamanian strongman Gen. Manuel A. Noriega an agent of Cuba, a declaration that could result in fines and jail terms for U.S. companies that do business with him.
Noriega, his wife, Felicidad Sieiro de Noriega, and 32 companies, including several hotels and airport duty-free shops, are being added to the list of 134 firms and individuals already identified as Cuban agents in Panama, the Treasury Department announced.
The United States has banned trade by Americans with Cuba since 1960. Violations of the embargo can result in fines up to $500,000 against U.S. corporations and up to $250,000 against individuals, who may also be jailed for up to 12 years.
"This action is another step in the United States' efforts to halt the channeling of funds to the illegal regime of Gen. Noriega and to neutralize Cuban commercial activities in Panama that serve to circumvent the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba," the announcement said. The move is not expected to do much damage to Panama's economy.