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Home Facts Graduates Notorious Grads Notorious Graduates from Panama
Notorious Graduates from Panama PDF Print E-mail

For a summary of the most notorious graduates from Panama click here

PANAMA

Name: General Manuel Noriega
Country: Panama
Dates/courses: Five time SOA graduate, including courses in Jungle Operations and Counter-Intelligence in 1965 and 1967 (1965 – Jungle Operations, 1967 Infantry Officer 0 -7, 1967 Jungle Operations OE – 8, 1967, Counter Intelligence Officer Course MI-Phase II, 1967 Combat Intell Off O-11A)  
Info: Military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989.  He was on the CIA payroll while heavily involved in the drug trade.  He was tried in court for 8 separate counts of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering in the early 1990’s, convicted of murder charges, an extradited to France in April 2010 and is now serving another prison sentence. The 1988 Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations concluded that "The saga of Panama's General Manuel Antonio Noriega represents one of the most serious foreign policy failures for the United States.”

Name: Alejandro Fretes Davalos
Country: Paraguay
Dates/courses: Attended the SOA in 1956
Info: Fretes Davalos was a member of military intelligence and participated in Operation Condor, which coordinated the efforts of Southern Cone military regimes to arrest, imprison, torture, and “repatriate” the opponents of the different regimes. (Es Mi Informe, 1994)

CPT Francisco Alvarez, 1977, Training Management Course;1976, Special
Mortar Course
Attempted coup, 1988: Supported a failed 1988 coup attempt; then
escaped to Miami with a group fleeing from the failed 1989 coup attempt.
(The New York Times, 10/11/89)

CPT Juan Jose Arza Aguilera, 1979, Small Unit Administration &
Instruction
Attempted coup, 1989: Arza Aguilera supported Mois?s Giroldi's October
1989 coup attempt against Noriega. He was murdered when the coup failed.
(La Prensa, Panama)

CPT Francisco Avila, 1983, Commando Operations Course
Murder, 1989: One of eight soldiers implicated in the murder of nine
other soldiers who participated in a failed coup against Noriega. Avila
is deceased. (La Prensa, Panama)

CPT Jes?s Balma, 1979, Infantry Tactics
Attempted coup, 1989: As then-chief of Panamanian special forces, Balma
was one of 3 key young officers (all SOA graduates) who supported Mois?s
Giroldi's failed October 1989 coup attempt. (The New York Times,
10/4/89)

CPT Jorge Bonilla Arboleda,1983, Administration/Instruction course
Attempted coup, 1989: Supported Mois?s Giroldi's October 1989 coup
attempt, and was subsequently murdered. (La Prensa, Panama)

1LT Felipe Camargo,1982, Combat Arms Officer Advanced Course
Gunrunning, 1978-79: Noriega put him in charge of a gun-running
operation that funneled arms from Cuba through Panama and Costa Rica to
the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Camargo was imprisoned following the
Panama invasion. (Our Man in Panama)

LTC El?as Castillo,1973, Command and Unit Staff Course; 1965,
Counterinsurgency Operations; 1964, Jungle Operations
Noriega's chief of military operations: He was a member of Noriega's
"inner circle." Dinges describes him as "the tough professional with
little appetite for politics." (Our Man in Panama)

COL Armando Contreras,1962, Counterinsurgency Operations;1958, Military
Police Orient.
Barracks coup, 1982: With Noriega, Paredes and D?az Herrera, carried out
a nonviolent barracks coup against National Guard chief Florencio
Florez. (Our Man in Panama)

SGT Aristides Cordoba, 1981, Patrol Operations Course
Murder, 1989: Cordoba went on trial on June 5, 1995 for the murder of
nine soldiers who attempted a coup against Noriega in October 1989. (La
Prensa, Panama)

MAJ Luis C?rdoba,1986, Administration Course; 1978, Combat Arms Officer
Advanced Course; 1974, Military Intelligence Officer Course
Assassination, 1986: Implicated in the 1985 assassination (and
decapitation) of Hugo Spadafora, long-time rival of Noriega. On
September 13, 1985, the day before Spadafora's decapitated body was
found on the Costa Rican border (an area under C?rdoba's command), the
U.S. intercepted a call C?rdoba made to Noriega. C?rdoba said, "We have
the rabid dog." Noriega is said to have responded, 'What do you do with
a rabid dog?' (Our Man in Panama) C?rdoba attended the School of the
Americas at Fort Benning the following August.

CPT Luis Del Cid,1965, Jungle Operations
Drug Trafficking: One of Noriega's codefendants in the Miami indictment
issued February 5, 1988 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (RICO). (Our Man in Panama)

CPT Mario Del Cid, 1980, Training Management Course;1976, Special Mortar
Course
Assassination, 1986: D?az Herrera (below) claimed that Del Cid, then an
aide to Major C?rdoba (above), was involved in the macabre murder of
Hugo Spadafora. (Our Man in Panama)

COL Roberto D?az Herrera,1961, Infantry Arms and Tactics
Barracks coup, 1982: With Noriega, Rub?n Dar?o Paredes, and Contreras,
nonviolent ousted Florencio Flores as commander of Panamanian National
Guard. D?az Herrera also accompanied Paredes when he forced the
resignation of President Aristides Royo. In 1987, when Noriega reneged
on promises made to D?az Herrera upon his (forced) retirement, D?az went
to the Panamanian press, giving hours of rambling interviews covering
just about every dirty deal that he and Noriega were involved in. Days
of rioting ensued. He was eventually arrested and exiled to Venezuela.
(Our Man in Panama)

CPT Asunci?n Gaitan Rios, 1981, Infantry Officer Course;1980, Small Unit
Administration and Instruction
Murder, 1989: One of 8 soldiers who went on trial in Panama on June 5,
1995 for the murder of 9 soldiers following a failed coup attempt in
October 1989. Gaitan is a fugitive who is being tried in absentia. (La
Prensa, Panama)

MAJ Mois?s Giroldi, 1982, Military Intelligence Course (Distinguished
graduate);1980, Small Unit Administration Course; 1975,
Counterinsurgency Operations
Attempted coup, 1989: Giroldi launched a coup attempt against Noriega
on October 3, 1989. Giroldi had been instrumental in foiling a coup in
March 1988 (see Macias, below). For this and other reasons ("Giroldi's
a bastard, a sort of mini-Noriega," said an unnamed Pentagon official in
a Time magazine article), the U.S. suspected a trap and failed to
support the coup. Noriega had Giroldi murdered when the coup attempt
failed. (See Sucre Medina, below.) (Time, 1O/16/89; Our Man in Panama)

CPT Cleto Hernandez,1982, Combat Arms Officer Advanced Course; 1972,
Military Intelligence Officer Course; 1972, Jungle Operations
Member of Noriega’s Military Intelligence: In 1975, Hernandez was a
member of Noriega's G-2 (military intelligence). By 1985, he was second
in command of the G-2 and was considered a member of the pandilla
("gang"), a group of younger officers closer to Noriega than some of his
old cronies. (Our Man in Panama)

COL Eduardo Herrera Hassan, 1975, Command and General Staff College;
1974, Command and Unit Staff Course;1972, Internal Defense;1966, Joint
Operations Course
Plotted coups for the CIA: Noriega fired him from his post in Israel in
1988; he immediately went to work for the CIA, working on plots to
overthrow Noriega. He worked closely with Senator Helms for a time; and
the CIA finally put him off the payroll, calling him a "flake." (NYT,
10/23/95, OMIP) Yet, in post-invasion Panama, Herrera was chosen to lead
the restructured military police force. Less than a year later,
President Endara fired him and put him in prison. A military rebellion
of sorts ensued, which was quashed by U.S. soldiers in December 1990 (1
year after the invasion). (Our Man in Panama)

COL Marcos Justine;1976, Panamanian Officer Review; 1962,
Counterinsurgency Operations;
1961, Engineer Officer Course
Allegations of drug trafficking, 1989: A New York Times article
suggested that along with Noriega, Justine and 3 other SOA graduates
were objects of the October 3, 1989 coup because they were widely
believed to have close ties to Colombian drug traffickers. (The New York
Times, 10/4/89)

CPT Javier Licona,1976, Commando Operations Course
Attempted coup, 1989: One of 3 key young officers (all SOA graduates)
who supported Mois?s Giroldi's attempted coup against Noriega on October
3, 1989. Licona, part of the Panamanian cavalry, was the
highest-ranking rebel to escape Panama after the coup attempt. He fled
to Miami. (The New York Times, 10/4/89)

CPT Nicasio Lorenzo,1981, Combat Arms Advanced Course;1975,
Counterinsurgency Operations
Attempted coup, 1989: Supported the October 1989 coup attempt by Mois?s
Giroldi. Lorenzo died in jail very soon after the coup failed; family
and friends believed he was murdered; prison personnel said he committed
suicide. (The New York Times, 10/11/89)

COL Leonidas Macias,1979, Command and General Staff College;1970, Combat
Arms Officer Advanced Course;1967, Civic Action Seminar;1962, Engineer
Officer Course
Attempted coup, 1988: As then-Chief of Police, Macias led an
unsuccessful coup attempt in March 1988. (The New York Times, 10/4/89)

MAJ Nivaldo Madri?an,1981, Command and General Staff College;1978,
Combat Arms Officer Advanced Course;1972, Urban Counterinsurgency
Destroying evidence, 1986: Madri?an destroyed evidence (photos, i.d.
cards, phone records) linking a major drug runner to Noriega. (Our Man
in Panama)

MAJ Boris Mart?nez,1965, Counterinsurgency Operations;1963, SOPM;1960,
Infantry Arms and Tactics
Coup, 1968: Instrumental in the success of Torrijos' successful but
bloodless coup against Arnulfo Arias. Shortly thereafter, Mart?nez
overstepped his bounds and Torrijos exiled him to Miami. (Our Man in
Panama)

LTC Juli?n Melo Borbua, 1974, Command and General Staff;1972, Internal
Defense;1970, Combat Arms Officer Advanced Course; 1967, Officer General
Supply;1965, Counterinsurgency Operations
Drug trafficking, 1984: Until 1984, Melo was Noriega's right hand man;
but Melo was ousted from the National Guard after a murky deal with
Colombian drug traffickers went sour. One year later, Melo was free and
prospering, the charges against him having been quietly dropped in
December 1984. He later opened Financiero Facilito, a money brokerage
in Panama City. (Our Man in Panama)

COL Angel Mina, 1965, Infantry Officer Course; 1961, Engineer Officer
Course
Allegations of drug trafficking, 1989: A New York Times article
suggested that along with Noriega, Angel Mina and 3 other SOA graduates
were object of the October 3, 1989 coup, because they were widely
believed to have close ties to Colombian drug traffickers. Mina was
considered a member of Noriega's "inner circle" at the height of his
power. (The New York Times, 10/4/89)

Major Federico Olechea,1979, Administration/Instruction Course; 1978,
Combat Arms Officer Advanced Course
Coup attempt, 1989: Olechea commanded the U.S.-trained, crack Battalion
2000, which ultimately rescued Noriega from his would-be captors during
Mois?s Giroldi's failed 1989 coup attempt. Giroldi's wife claimed later
that Olechea betrayed Giroldi, who had counted on him and his battalion
to back the coup. Olechea was rumored to be in detention following the
coup. (Newsweek, 10/23/89)

SGT Ismael Ortega Caballero, 1983, Faculty Development Course
Attempted coup, 1989: Supported Mois?s Giroldi's October 1989 coup
attempt, and was subsequently murdered for doing so. (La Prensa, Panama)

COL Julio Ow Young, 1978, Command and General Staff College;1976,
Infantry Officer Advanced Course;1969, O-5;1965, Infantry Officer
Course;1963, Engineer Officer Course
Allegations of drug trafficking, 1989: A New York Times article
suggested that along with Noriega, Ow Young and 3 other SOA graduates
were objects of the October 3, 1989 coup, because they were widely
believed to have close ties to Colombian drug traffickers. (The New York
Times, 10/4/89) Ow Young was apparently out of a job either way; the
Washington Post reported two days later that Noriega ordered the arrest
of Ow Young following the coup attempt, not because he was considered a
part of the coup, but because Noriega had been looking for an excuse to
remove him so that he could promote younger officers. (The Washington
Post, 10/6/89)

MAJ Armando Palacios G?ndola, 1981, Command and General Staff Course
(Distinguished graduate);1978, Combat Arms Officer Advanced Course
(Distinguished graduate)
Arrested following coup attempt, 1989: Palacios G?ndola was one of
Noriega's closest advisors, heading an organization that supervised
joint U.S./Panamanian operations. He was arrested following Mois?s
Giroldi's October 1989 coup attempt, though it is unclear whether or not
he actively participated in the coup. (Time, 10/16/89)

COL Rub?n Dar?o Paredes,1958, Military Police Orientation;1961,
Counter-resistance; 1965, Infantry Officer Course
Bloodless barracks coup, 1982: With Noriega, D?az Herrera, and Contreras
(SOA graduates all) nonviolently ousted National Guard chief Florencio
Florez (who, upon inheriting the command of the Panamanian National
Guard after Torrijos death, "showed no ambition and had not even
promoted himself to general"). Paredes himself then became commander of
the National Guard; one of his first official functions (again, with
Noriega and D?az Herrera) was to force the retirement of Panamanian
president Aristides Royo. Having done this, he issued a set of decrees
(all but one presented as "recommendations") that called for the
resignation of almost everyone in the civilian government, the
implementation of several new laws, a review of the labor code, and a
7-day shutdown of all newspapers. He had National Guard troops occupy
the liberal La Prensa; they ruined or stole much of the equipment and
files. (Our Man in Panama)

COL Lorenzo Purcell, 1977, Infantry Officer Advanced Course
Allegations of drug trafficking, 1989: A New York Times article
suggested that along with Noriega, Purcell and 3 other SOA graduates
were objects of the October 3, 1989 coup, because they were widely
believed to have close ties to Colombian drug traffickers. (The New York
Times, 10/4/89)

CPT Evidello Quiel,1983, Military Intelligence Course; 1982, Instruction
Course; 1981, Curso de Buseo
Murder, 1989: One of 8 soldiers who went on trial in Panama on June 5,
1995 for the murder of 9 soldiers following a failed coup attempt in
October 1989, Quiel is a fugitive who is being tried in absentia. (La
Prensa, Panama)

CPT Edgardo Sandoval,1980, Basic Combat Arms Course
Attempted coup, 1989: One of 3 key young officers (all SOA graduates)
who supported Mois?s Giroldi's attempted coup against Noriega on October
3, 1989. (The New York Times, 10/4/89) Sandoval was murdered when the
coup failed. (The Washington Post, 10/5/89)

LTC Amado Sanjur, 1961, Comando y Plana Mayor
Attempted coup, 1969: With Ramiro Silvera (below), led an unsuccessful
coup attempt against Torrijos in December 1969. He was imprisoned, but
later escaped with several others and fled to Miami. (Our Man in Panama)

LTC Ramiro Silvera,1967, Command and General Staff College; 1961,
Counter-resistance Course
Attempted coup, 1969: With Amado Sanjur (above) led an unsuccessful coup
attempt against Torrijos in December 1989. (Our Man in Panama)

MAJ Heraclides Sucre Medina, 1979, Administration and Instruction; 1978,
Infantry Tactics
Murder: Convicted in March 1994 of murdering Major Mois?s Giroldi
(above), who had attempted to overthrow Noriega in a violent coup.
(Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York Weekly News Update on
the Americas 3/13/94)

CPT Leon Tejada Gonzalez, 1982, Training Management Officer Course;
1981, Combat Arms Officer Advanced Course
Attempted coup, 1989: Supported Mois?s Giroldi's 1989 coup attempt
against Noriega, and was subsequently killed for his involvement. (La
Prensa, Panama)

GEN Omar Torrijos, 1967, COPECODECA; 1966, Command and General Staff
College; 1964, "SOPM"; 1963, Counterinsurgency Operations
Dictator, 1968-1981: Led a bloodless coup against civilian President
Arnulfo Arias in 1968, emerging as Panama's de facto leader until his
death years later. (The Washington Post, 5/19/94; Our Man in Panama)

COL Guillermo J. Wong, 1981, Command and General Staff College; 1975,
Infantry Officer Advanced Course; 1967, Jungle Operations; 1966, Civic
Action Seminar
Attempted Coup, 1989: As then-chief of Panamanian military intelligence,
Wong was reported in some news reports to have supported Mois?s
Giroldi's 1989 attempt to oust Noriega. Others reported that Wong was
arrested after the coup attempt, not because he was considered a part of
the coup, but because Noriega had been looking for an excuse to remove
him so that he could promote younger officers. (The New York Times,
10/4/89; The Washington Post, 10/6/89)

 

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