Official: Mother's Funeral May Bring Panama President Out of Hiding
Jul. 08, 1988
MIAMI (AP) _ The funeral of the ousted Panamanian president's mother in that Central American nation could bring the former leader out of hiding, a consular official said Thursday.
Eric Arturo Delvalle, recognized by the United States as Panama's leader, has not been seen in public since Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega replaced him in February with the current acting civilian chief of state, Manuel Solis Palma.
The body of Delvalle's mother, Abigail Henriquez de Delvalle, 71, was to be flown to Panama on Thursday evening. She died at Mercy Hospital here Wednesday of a heart attack, a week after flying to Miami for heart surgery, said Roberto Dominguez, Panama's consul here.
Her funeral was set Friday, and Solis Palma has said Delvalle and his family can attend the service without fear of reprisal, said Dominguez.
''I understand from family members that Delvalle may attend the funeral, but I have not spoken to him directly,'' he said.
''But it could be a trap,'' added Dominguez, who opposes Noriega, the country's military leader.
The funeral could be a problem for the United States, which must decide whether it should protect Delvalle, he said.
In Washington, Panama's anti-Noriega ambassador, Juan Sosa, said Thursday the funeral will be private. He did not not know if Delvalle planned to come out of hiding for the service.
He said he has not received ''communications from the illegitimate government'' of Panama about arrangements for Delvalle's safety.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ben Justesen in Washington said his office had no information on whether Delvalle or anyone from the U.S. embassy there would attend.
The U.S. Embassy in Panama refused comment on whether its officials would attend the funeral, and said they did not know Delvalle's plans.
Delvalle was replaced by Noriega after he tried to fire him as head of the armed forces in the wake of the general's indictment in Florida on drug charges.
The ouster was never recognized by the United States government, which cut off funds to Panama in an unsuccessful effort to remove Noriega. The Reagan administration later offered to drop the indictments in return for Noriega's departure, but the deal fell through.