Panama's former president Ricardo Martinelli, who has been in a United States prison for almost a year, confessed to granting a string of “favors” to the United States government and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as he attempts to make a case to avoid extradition to the Central American country on corruption charges.
In the four-page letter released Friday, Martinelli provided explained how he assisted the intelligence agency and U.S. Government.
"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," Martinelli said in the letter, which some have described as a desperate to have the U.S. intervene in the extradition proceedings.
Other examples of his “100% pro-U.S.” stance cited in the letter include preventing members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from taking refuge in Panama when the peace talks were underway in Cuba and voting 100 percent of the time with Israel in the United Nations.
Martinelli, who held the office of President between 2009 and 2014, was jailed last year after Panama requested extradition on charges that he used public money to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his presidential term.
He has denied the charges against him arguing he is the victim of a political vendetta by current Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela.
Despite his claims, Martinelli was arrested in Miami where he has lived since he left Panama in 2015. He faces over a dozen pending cases in Panama related to embezzling public funds and selling presidential pardons.
Martinelli said in the letter "after years of friendship with this country; I did not expect to be thrown in a U.S. jail."
According to Martinelli after stopping the North Korean ship, he received a visit by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who thanked him and assured him he would be able to settle in the U.S. "without fear" if he needed.
He also said that during a lunch meeting in the CIA’s headquarters he was told he could go to the U.S. if he needed protection from Juan Carlos Varela or other future governments.