Ex-Panama pres­i­dent’s jail let­ter blames U.S. for ex­tra­di­tion

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

PANAMA CITY, (Reuters) - For­mer Panama pres­i­dent Ri­cardo Martinelli, jailed in Mi­ami on spy­ing charges while await­ing ex­tra­di­tion to his home coun­try, said in a let­ter re­leased Fri­day that the United States re­neged on prom­ises from some U.S. of­fi­cials to of­fer him a safe-haven.

“After years of friend­ship with this coun­try, I did not ex­pect to be thrown in a U.S. jail,” he wrote in a let­ter dated May 14 and re­leased by a spokesman.

Martinelli was jailed last year in the United States after Panama re­quested ex­tra­di­tion on charges that he used pub­lic money to spy on more than 150 po­lit­i­cal ri­vals dur­ing his 2009-2014 term.

A U.S. court au­tho­rized the ex­tra­di­tion last year, and Martinelli last month main­tained his in­no­cence but said he would stop fight­ing the pro­ceed­ings for judg­ment in Panama.

In the four-page let­ter, Martinelli says Pana­ma­nian Pres­i­dent Juan Car­los Varela, a for­mer ally, had sought po­lit­i­cal re­venge, and that he ex­pected the United States to of­fer “pro­tec­tion” from Varela’s gov­ern­ment.

He also de­tailed ex­am­ples of as­sist­ing the United States to curb cross-bor­der crime, such as halt­ing a North Korean ship trav­el­ing from Cuba with planes, mis­siles and radar.

“When the CIA re­quested that I stop a North Korean ship leav­ing Cuba that was cross­ing the Panama Canal, I did not blink an eye,” the let­ter states.

Martinelli, a wealthy su­per­mar­ket mag­nate, also said he un­der­stood that high-rank­ing U.S. of­fi­cials had agreed to let him set­tle in the United States “with­out fear.”

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