Panama ex-dictator Noriega in critical condition after brain surgery

By Elida Moreno
Panama's former dictator Manuel Noriega is seen on a television screen in Panama City June 24, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Elida Moreno

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panamanian former dictator Manuel Noriega was rushed into surgery for a second time on Tuesday after suffering a hemorrhage from an operation to remove a benign tumor from his brain, his family and lawyer said.

"He has a major brain hemorrhage and is in serious condition," his daughter Lorena Noriega told reporters outside the Santo Tomas hospital where he was operated on, describing his condition as "critical".

The 83-year-old Noriega ruled Panama from 1983 to 1989, spying for the CIA before his drug trafficking and brutal regime sparked a massive U.S. invasion in 1989.

Noriega's lawyer Ezra Angel had said the brain operation was a success but later told reporters the former strongman's life was in danger as he was hurried back to the operating theater.

"The first operation already compromised his life, this second operation is even more risky," he said.

Angel said that the second operation in eight hours would be carried out with "open skull" and that Noriega's high blood pressure may have helped cause the hemorrhage.

Noriega was initially sentenced in the United States in 1992 and is currently serving a sentence for murder in Panama. Judicial authorities had granted Noriega a period of house arrest until April 28 to undergo the operation.

As military ruler of the Central American country, Noriega made world headlines as his relationship with Washington soured, prompting the United States to send in nearly 28,000 troops to seize Panama City and capture him in a house-to-house hunt.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by James Dalgleish)