Former Panama Strongman Manuel Noriega Dies at 83

Tensions with the United States began mounting in 1985 when Noriega dismissed Nicolas Ardito Barletta, Panama's first democratically elected president in 16 years.

In this 1989 photograph, Noriega waves while leaving his headquarters in Panama City following a failed coup against him. "Everything done by the Republic of Panama under my command was known", Noriega said during his incarceration.

Noriega ruled in Panama from 1983 until 1989, when he was ousted by an American invasion.

Noriega was extradited to Panama on December 11, 2011 after serving more than 20 years in jail in the USA and France for drug trafficking and money laundering.

After completing his 17-year sentence in 2007, Noriega was extradited to France and received a seven-year sentence for money laundering.

-July 31, 1981: Torrijos dies in plane accident, and members of secret service temporarily take over National Guard.

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

- February 11, 1934: Born in Panama City. Omar Torrijos, who seized power in a 1968 coup d'etat. Noriega asked bitterly in the jailhouse interviews this reporter conducted with him that led to his 1994 memoir, "America's Prisoner". After a frustrated career in psychiatry, Manuel Antonio Noriega enrolled in the armed forces, where he was able to attend the military school of Chorrillos in Peru, thanks to a scholarship.

Noriega passed away on May 29, 2017 at the age of 83. Donald Winters, chief of Central Intelligence Agency operations in Panama, said Noriega brokered deals with South American leaders and acted as a liaison to Cuban President Fidel Castro.

With more than 20,000 US troops on Panamanian soil, Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy in Panama City for 10 days, eventually surrendering to US Drug Enforcement Administration officials on January 3, 1990 after US troops had surrounded the compound with loudspeakers playing deafening rock music.

The next day Noriega was transferred to Miami for prosecution that would be sentenced to 40 years in prison for drug trafficking.

The case against Noriega rested on two dozen convicted cocaine felons, all of whom received reduced sentences for testifying. Some of the biggest banks in the country were used to launder drug money under Noriega's power. The onetime USA ally was ousted by an American invasion in 1989, served a 17-year drug sentence in the United States and then was sent to face charges in France.

His lawyer said he suffered ailments like hypertension and strokes.

Latest News