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Manuel Noriega

Military Leader of Panama

Died when: 83 years 107 days (999 months)
Star Sign: Aquarius


Manuel Noriega

Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno (Spanish pronunciation: [maˈnwel noˈɾjeɣa];February 11, 1934 – May 29, 2017) was a Panamanian dictator, politician and military officer who was the de facto ruler of Panama from 1983 to 1989.

An authoritarian ruler who amassed a personal fortune through drug trafficking operations, he had long standing ties to United States intelligence agencies before the U.S. invasion of Panama removed him from power.

Born in Panama City to a poor pardo family, Noriega studied at the Chorrillos Military School in Lima and at the School of the Americas.

He became an officer in the Panamanian army, and rose through the ranks in alliance with Omar Torrijos.In 1968, Torrijos overthrew President Arnulfo Arias in a coup.

Noriega became chief of military intelligence in Torrijos's government, and after Torrijos's death in 1981, consolidated power to become Panama's de facto ruler in 1983.

Beginning in the 1950s, Noriega worked with U.S. intelligence agencies, and became one of the Central Intelligence Agency's most valued intelligence sources.

He also served as a conduit for illicit weapons, military equipment, and cash destined for U.S.-backed forces throughout Latin America.

Noriega's relationship with the U.S. deteriorated in the late 1980s after his relationship with intelligence agencies in other countries came to light, and his involvement in drug trafficking was investigated further.

In 1988, Noriega was indicted by federal grand juries in Miami and Tampa on charges of racketeering, drug smuggling, and money laundering.

The U.S. launched an invasion of Panama following failed negotiations seeking his resignation, and Noriega's annulment of the 1989 Panamanian general election.

Noriega was captured and flown to the U.S., where he was tried on the Miami indictment, convicted on most of the charges, and sentenced to 40 years in prison, ultimately serving 17 years after a reduction in his sentence for good behavior.

Noriega was extradited to France in 2010, where he was convicted and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for money laundering.

In 2011 France extradited him to Panama, where he was incarcerated for crimes committed during his rule, for which he had been tried and convicted in absentia in the 1990s.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor in March 2017, Noriega suffered complications during surgery, and died two months later.Noriega's authoritarian rule in Panama has been described as a dictatorship, and was marked by repression of the media, an expansion of the military, and the persecution of political opponents, effectively controlling the outcomes of any elections.

He relied upon military nationalism to maintain his support, and did not espouse a specific social or economic ideology.Noriega was known for his complicated relationship with the U.S., being described as being its ally and nemesis simultaneously.

He has been called one of the best-known dictators of his time, and compared to authoritarian rulers such as Muammar Gaddafi and Augusto Pinochet.

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