The Reagan administration is misinforming the American public about efforts to resolve Panama's political crisis, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega said in an interview Friday.
Noriega, commander of Panama's Defense Forces and the power behind the civilian government, has resisted U.S. pressure, including economic sanctions, to resign.He said that Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, is "damaging the Reagan administration" and misinforming the U.S. public about any talks to resolve the dispute.
The general said he has held "conversations," not "negotiations," with "southern and northern leaders" and spoke of what he called a positive proposal submitted by President Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala. But he declined to give any details about that proposal.
Noriega agreed to the interview after he inaugurated a water line to the community of Sajalices 45 miles southwest of Panama City.
He said Panama wanted a democracy "in the image and likeness of Panama and not of the United States. Leave us alone. Let them not interfere with our tamoborito (a Panamanian folk dance) and we will not interfere with their political rock 'n roll."
The Reagan administration wants "docile governments" in Latin America instead of friendly ones that can be treated as equals, he added.
Noriega was indicted by a federal grand jury in Florida last February on drug-trafficking charges, which he denies.
The U.S. government imposed sanctions to force Noriega to resign and leave Panama after the legislature controlled by the general ousted President Eric Arturo Delvalle Feb. 26. That was the day after Delvalle tried to fire Noriega.
Banners in Sajalices read "Welcome general," and Noriega shook hands and chatted with people at the ceremony inaugurating the three-mile pipeline.
Noriega opened the water faucets at a soccer field and then cupping his hands threw water at those around him. He kicked a soccer ball to open an amateur league's season and spent nearly an hour talking with residents.
He claimed Abrams is "disinforming the people of the United States about conversations with Panama" because Abrams' previous advice to President Reagan "has been a failure."
He said he has not refused to talk with U.S. repesentatives.