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URGENT Arrest Warrant Issued For Delvalle In Panama

April 7, 1988

PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) _ A government prosecutor late Wednesday said an arrest warrant has been issued for deposed President Eric Arturo Delvalle.

Prosecutor Alvaro Visuetti said in an interview on Channel 2, a military- controlled television station, that warrants had been issued for Delvalle and Gabriel Lewis Galindo, a former ambassador to the United States.

He said that a warrant had been issued earlier for the arrest of Juan B. Sosa, Delvalle’s ambassador to the United States.

The warrants reportedly accuse the three of crimes against the state, usurping public power and crimes against the economic security of Panama.

Delvalle was fired by the National Legislature at the end of February after he tried to fire Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega as head of the 15,000-member Panamanian Defense Forces. Noriega, the power behind the civilian government, is under indictment in the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Delvalle has been in hiding ever since his dismissal. The United States still considers him Panama’s legitimate president, and has frozen all Panamanian bank funds in the United States.

Since Delvalle’s ousting, the nation has been gripped by a severe political and economic crisis that shows no signs of abating.

In other developments Wednesday, police fired tear gas and birdshot to break up an opposition demonstration in Panama City, and the United States completed deployment of 1,300 extra troops to Panama to beef up security for American personnel and property in the former Panama Canal Zone.

Also Wednesday, Panama’s civilian chief executive, Manuel Solis Palma, announced the government had agreed to talks with opposition groups ″without preconditions or irreconcilable demands.″

The Reagan administration said 800 Marines would start arriving in Panama on Friday for what it described as three weeks of routine jungle training.

Panama’s opposition, which has been seeking Noriega’s ouster for more than 10 months, sponsored a ″march against hunger″ Wednesday afternoon, but police flooded the park where it was to take place in Panama City.

Nonetheless, about 50 protesters met at a nearby church and began a march to the central business district. They had gone nearly a mile when police stopped them with a barrage of tear gas and birdshot. Hundreds of people jeered at the police from sidewalks and balconies despite the swirls of tear gas that enveloped blocks of Central Avenue, the main shopping thoroughfare.

Many onlookers threw garbage into the avenue and sidestreets and set fire to piles of refuse. It took more than an hour for police to restore order. No injuries were immediately reported.

A state-owned television station reported that two U.S. soldiers in an Army jeep were stopped and detained by Panamanian troops near the protest. Maj. Ann Crum of the U.S. Southern Command said the soldiers were freed an hour later.

A spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, who spoke on condition he was not identified, said the two American soldiers apparently got lost and drove into the area by accident. He said the Army was investigating the case.

The march was designed to protest a deteriorating economic situation that has left thousands of Panamanians penniless.

Update hourly