Manuel Noriega, ex-Panamanian dictator, dies at 83

Ruben Ruiz
May 31, 2017

General Manuel Antonio Noriega, former military leader of Panama, has died aged 83, officials have announced.

"The death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter in our history; his daughters and their families deserve to bury him in peace".

A paid Central Intelligence Agency collaborator since the early 1970s, Noriega at first worked closely with Washington, allowing USA forces to set up listening posts in Panama, and use the country to funnel aid to pro-American forces in El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was paid millions for his assistance to the USA throughout Latin America, including acting as a liaison to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the AP said.

While some resentment still lingers over the US invasion, Noriega has so few supporters in modern-day Panama that attempts to auction off his old home attracted no bidders and the government made a decision to tear the decaying building down.

The ex-strongman was captured and imprisoned in the United States, France and later Panama under a variety of charges, ranging from drug trafficking, money laundering and forced disappearances. He spent the final years of his life in a Panamanian prison for the murder of political opponents during his six-year reign.

Noriega's health had been severely deteriorating in recent weeks after he underwent a surgery to remove a benign tumour. Noriega served as head of military intelligence to Gen. Omar Torrijos, who seized power in a military coup in 1968. Torrijos died in a plane crash in 1981.

Noriega was initially sentenced in the United States in 1992 but was serving a sentence for murder in Panama when he died.

In addition to the drug trafficking charges against Noriega, there were concerns about the safety of the approximately 35,000 Americans in Panama.

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-May 17, 1984: Electoral court declares Noriega-backed Nicholas Ardito Barletta as victor of presidential election as opposition alleges fraud.

During his years at a minimum-security federal prison outside Miami, Noriega got special prisoner of war treatment, allowed to wear his Panamanian military uniform and insignia when in court.

Noriega is survived by his wife, Felicidad Sieiro and three daughters Sandra, Thays and Lorena.

Prosecutors accused Noriega of helping Colombia's Medellin cocaine cartel ship "tons and tons of a deadly white powder" to the United States.

In 1991, Noriega was convicted of drug charges, after the "trial of the century".

"It's wrong what people say - that you can buy him", said Ambler Moss, the former USA ambassador to Panama.

Noriega would serve a lengthy prison sentence in the US for drug trafficking after President George H.W. Bush ordered a force of more than 27,000 troops to invade Panama in 1989, largely for the goal of removing the increasingly troublesome and lawless dictator.

Operation Just Cause was swift, lasting only from December 20, 1989, to Noriega's surrender on January 3, 1990, but it was not bloodless. As NPR recalls, one of the songs they used was "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley, making Noriega the first dictator to be Rickrolled. The U.S. Congress ended economic aid and military assistance to Panama in 1987. And though his sentence in the US was reduced to 15 years, his prison time ultimately was not - for he was also convicted of crimes in France and Panama, where he died at 83, still in custody for his crimes.

Other reports by GizPress

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