Hugo Spadafora

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Hugo Spadafora Franco (September 1940 – September 1985) was a Panamanian doctor and guerrilla fighter in Guinea-Bissau and Nicaragua.[1] He criticized the military in Panama, which led to his murder in 1985.[1]

Born in Chitre, Spadafora was a doctor, graduated from the University of Bologna, in Italy.[1] He served as a combat doctor with the independence guerrilla of Guinea-Bissau.[1] Originally a critic of the military regime headed by Omar Torrijos, he served as its Vice-Minister of Health. In 1978, he organized the Victoriano Lorenzo Brigade, formed by a group of Panamanian fighters to fight against the Anastasio Somoza Debayle regime in Nicaragua.

Concerned about the increased Soviet and Cuban influence in the Sandinista regime of Nicaragua and the delay of free elections, Spadafora joined the Sandino Revolutionary Front (FRS) alongside Edén Pastora ("Comandante Zero"), hero of the August 1978 seizure of Somoza's palace. The rise of Manuel Noriega as authoritarian ruler of Panama compelled Spadafora to denounce Noriega's protection of drug trafficking. Spadafora was detained by Noriega's forces when entering Panama from Costa Rica in September 1985, and his decapitated body was later found stuffed in a post office bag.[1] The autopsy later found Spadafora's stomach full of the blood he had ingested during the slow severing of his head.[1] He had also endured hours of severe torture.[1] President Nicolás Ardito Barletta tried to set up a commission to investigate the murder but was forced to resign by Noriega, which increased suspicions that the military ordered the beheading.[1]

It was not until the administration of President Guillermo Endara that a court found Noriega (in absentia) and other followers guilty of a conspiracy to murder Spadafora.



  • Kinzer, Stephen (February 2007). Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (Paperback). Times Books. ISBN 0-8050-8240-9. 

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