A former senior aide to Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega says Vice President George Bush met with Noriega five years ago and complained about money laundering in Panama, according to a British television documentary.
The assertion by Col. Roberto Diaz Herrera contradicts Bush claims that the Reagan administration took action against Noriega, Panama's de facto leader, as soon as it learned that Noriega was allegedly involved in drugs.Noriega was indicted in federal court on drug charges in February and U.S. sanctions began against him early this year.
A spokesman for the vice president said Bush met with Panama's then-President Ricardo de la Espriella and other officials, including Noriega, in Panama in 1983. But, he added, "There is nothing to indicate the vice president spoke with Noriega."
James Baker, chairman of Bush's presidential campaign, responded to questions about the matter on CBS "This Morning" Thursday. "You're going to hear a lot of rumors and speculation as this campaign moves through its last 47 days," he said.
Diaz and Jose I. Blandon, a former senior intelligence officer in Panama, also said Noriega claims to have pictures and tape recordings that would link Bush or his aides to secret training of Nicaraguan rebels.
From October 1984 to October 1986, U.S. law prohibited any U.S. government aid to the Contras in their fight to topple Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. The documentary did not say when the pictures were taken or when the tape recordings were made.
"We have learned that as early as 1983 George Bush sat down with Gen. Noriega to complain about the laundering of drug money in Panama," reporter Julian Manyon said on the Thames Television program.