Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega dies at 83

Nick Sanchez
June 7, 2017

Manuel Noriega, the feared dictator and the man who knew too much, died in his native Panama at the age of 83.

Noriega was a military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, when he was removed from power by the United States during the invasion of Panama. Noriega appears to have died of a brain hemorrhage following surgery to remove a tumor in March and a medically-induced coma.

Following years of ill-health that included respiratory problems, prostate cancer and depression, Noriega's family pleaded with the authorities to let him serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. President Juan Carlos Varela wrote on Twitter that Noriega's death "closed a chapter in our history". In December 1989, President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama. He was later appointed as chief of military intelligence by Torrijos.

Noriega, who studied at a military academy in Peru, supported Gen. Omar Torrijos in a coup that ousted President Arnulfo Arias in 1968.

But relations between Noriega and the USA turned sour by the late 1980s due to allegations of his own drug trafficking activities and his insistence on political independence.

Noriega was indicted in a US federal court on drug-trafficking charges in 1988. He was 83-years-old. Noriega is survived by his wife and three daughters.

For years, the Panamanian military man had been a close and sometimes clandestine ally of US governments as he rose to power in a country defined by a USA strategic asset, the Panama Canal, and in a region where America was fighting a series of proxy wars against Soviet allies.

On the run, he sought refuge in the Vatican's embassy, and according to popular rumor, he arrived disguised as a woman. He surrendered to United States troops in January 1990.

"The United States understood that Noriega is not the same man that was lieutenant colonel", Noriega told American filmmaker Oliver Stone, who interviewed him in a US federal prison in 1993.

The ex-general had been granted temporary release on February 28 from his prison overlooking the Panama Canal to undergo surgery.

Noriega's trial in 1991 was dubbed the drugs "trial of the century" by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and eventually saw him found guilty on eight counts and sentenced to 40 years in jail.

In mid-2011, France approved his extradition to Panama.

In December 1989, Panama's National Assembly named Noriega "maximum leader" and declared the United States and Panama to be in a "state of war".

"I feel like as Christians we all have to forgive", he said, reading from a handwritten statement. Evidence of the Panamanian dictator's extrajudicial killings and dealings with drug cartels mounted until it was almost impossible to ignore - no matter how helpful he had proved to the Central Intelligence Agency in the past.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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