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Perez: Noriega Must Step Down

February 5, 1989

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ President Carlos Andres Perez on Saturday urged Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega to step down as commander of the Panamanian Defense Forces and ruler of the nation.

In his first press conference since being sworn in as president, Perez said the next elections in Panama, scheduled for mid-year, ″should not be a farce ... but must really signify the sovereign expression of the will of the Panamanian people.″

He also said that Noriega, who by law should have retired last year after 25 years in the army, ″could do Panama and Latin America a great service by resigning his military power when the Constitution and the Panamanian laws order him to do so.″

Perez said he saw ″no possibility″ of Panama’s rejoining the Group of Eight unless Noriega, the de facto leader of Panama, steps down and the country goes forward with democratic reforms.

The group is made up by Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Brasil, Uruguay, Argentina and Peru. Panama was suspended in 1988 after Noriega ousted the elected president from power.

The United States has imposed economic sanctions on Panama to pressure Noriega to step down.