Ex-Dictator of Panama Manuel Noriega

Claudine Rigal
Mai 31, 2017

Gen. Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian strongman and onetime American ally who was toppled from power in a 1989 USA invasion and who spent more than two decades imprisoned on drug dealing and conspiracy convictions, died late Monday.

The Panamanian government is telling its citizens they won't get any time off this week due to the death of ex-dictator Manuel Noriega.

Manuel Domínguez, the secretariat for Panama's Ministry of Communication, said Noriega died late Monday in Panama City's Hospital Santo Tomás, where he remained in the intensive care unit until his death, TVN Noticias reported.

Manuel Noriega ayaa ku geeriyoodey Isbitaal ku yaala Panama isaga oo ah 83 sano jir.

He was released from prison in January for three months to undertake the brain surgery.

By the time he returned to Panama in a wheelchair in December 2011, Noriega was a shadow of the macho army general who swung a machete at rallies.

Following Noriega's ouster Panama underwent huge changes, taking over the Panama Canal from US control in 1999, vastly expanding the waterway and enjoying a boom in tourism and real estate.

His opponents said Noriega was a brute who killed his opponents and hid millions of dollars in gains from drug and other corruption payments.

Then-Lt. Noriega came to prominence during a coup plot in December 1969 against Torrijos, who was on an official trip to Mexico. After serving time in the USA on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, he was sent to France in 2010 and convicted on money laundering charges.

Noriega emerged from the free-for-all with the mantle of commander of the combined Panamanian Defense Forces in 1983 - and in doing so, assumed absolute power in all but official name.

Widely reviled when he was Panama's de facto leader from 1983 until 1989, his small cadre of remaining supporters had kept a low profile and even bitter opponents dismissed Noriega as part of a distant, shadowy past. "The Panamanian people have already overcome this period of dictatorship".

In 2015, Noriega had apologized "to anybody who felt offended, affected, prejudiced or humiliated by my actions".

Drug Enforcement Agents help Noriega into a transport plane to Florida on Jan 4, 1990.

Noriega speaks in Panama City in May 1988.

He attended a military school in Peru, encouraged by a half brother, Luis Carlos, who served in the Panamanian Embassy there.

1968: Participates in a coup that ousts president Arnulfo Arias, and backs popular strongman general Omar Torrijos. Around this time Noriega reportedly goes onto the CIA's payroll. A poor but intelligent youth, his options were limited until a half-brother helped him join the military.

Noriega early on caught the attention of the CIA and became a paid informant for the US agency.

Opponents accused Noriega of killing political opponents and working with drug cartels, and the USA eventually soured on him. The sentence is later cut to 17 years.

But Panama wanted Noriega to return to face in-absentia convictions and two prison terms of 20 years for embezzlement, corruption and murder of opponents, including military commander Moises Giroldi, who led a failed rebellion on October 3, 1989, and Hugo Spadafora, whose decapitated body was found in a mailbag on the border with Costa Rica in 1985. The ex-dictator's family and lawyers say he has suffered strokes, respiratory problems, prostate cancer and depression. Some members of the Panamanian military had unsuccessful coups and their leaders were consequently executed by Noriega's firing squad. Following a second operation doctors put him in an induced coma.

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