Noriega, ex-dictator of Panama, dies at 83

Kelly Massey
June 7, 2017

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

The 1989 invasion ordered by President George H.W. Bush brought an end to Noriega's career of money-laundering and cocaine smuggling. Following his capture, he spent the rest of his life in various prisons.

Noriega, who died Monday night, was called MAN for the acronym for Manuel Antonio Noriega, although the New York Times points out in its obituary that the nickname that endured among his detractors was "Pineapple Face", owing to the strongman's pockmarked skin.

Noriega had undergone surgery in a Panama City hospital on March 7 to remove a benign brain tumor.

-1957: Studies at military academy in Peru. His service was noticed by the Central Intelligence Agency who brought him onto their payroll that year. Noriega was toppled in a December 1989 U.S. military invasion, and surrendered to United States troops in January 1990. He assassinated political rivals as needed.

Noriega's promotion to full general of 1983 made him the de facto leader of Panama, which at the time had no control over the Panama Canal Zone, an area of US control surrounding the canal. Between 1970 and 1987, he appeared in at least 80 different U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration files. Noriega was also a major cocaine trafficker, something which his USA intelligence handlers were aware of for years, but allowed because of his usefulness for their covert military operations in Latin America.

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Today the Central American nation has little in common with the bombed-out neighborhoods where Noriega hid during the 1989 invasion, before being famously smoked out of his refuge at the Vatican Embassy by incessant, loud rock music blared by USA troops.

July 2010: A French court sentences Noriega to seven years in prison.

Noriega was granted prisoner of war status after his trial, and his sentence was later reduced to 30 years.

He served as the chief of intelligence for Panama's de-facto leader, General Omar Torrijos. When that tumor started growing again, he was placed under house arrest to prepare for surgery.

The Panamanian general that was a CIA asset and go-between in Central America's dirty wars but became a monster the United States could not control, died on Monday, May 29, 2017.

He is survived by his wife and three adult daughters. Ten days later, he finally surrendered and was whisked to Miami. The U.S. has induced regime change in Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, and several other places around the world. In 2015, he asked the country for forgiveness for his notorious rule. However, once he assumed dictatorship of the republic, his increased brutality brought him into huge conflict with the U.S., eventually resulting in his downfall. We have learned little and profited less from these experiences.

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