Former Panama Dictator Manuel Noriega Dies At 83

Former Panama Dictator Manuel Noriega Dies At 83

Former Panama Dictator Manuel Noriega Dies At 83

General Manuel Noriega, who ruled Panama with an iron fist from 1983 until he was ousted by US forces in 1989, died on Monday.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who spied for the United States before his drug trafficking and brutality triggered a U.S. invasion to oust him in 1989, has died aged 83. Noriega succeeded him, in 1983 taking command of Panama's military and installed himself as the country's leader.

Citing the 1990 book, "In the Time of the Tyrants" by journalists Richard Koster and Guillermo Borbon, The New York Times reports that while passing secrets about Cuba to the U.S., Mr. Noriega sold the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro thousands of Panamanian passports, at $5,000 each.

"It's wrong what people say - that you can buy him", said Ambler Moss, the former USA ambassador to Panama.

"With the death of Mr. Noriega, one chapter of our history is closed, and another opens, one in which we must ensure that we don't repeat the previous era", said Augusto Yañez, a 46-year-old lawyer in Panama City.

Two years later, Torrijos died in a mysterious plane crash in 1981 (many believe it to be a murder) and Noriega became panama's ruler.

The former strongman was flown to the United States where a U.S. court convicted him on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and sentenced him to prison. In 2011, he returned to Panama to complete a 60-year sentence for murder, corruption and embezzlement during the military's three-decade rule. Some 28,000 troops landed on the country on 20 December 1989.

Noriega ruled with an iron fist, ordering the deaths of those who opposed him and maintaining a murky, close and conflictive relationship with the United States.

From the 1950s Noriega started working with the intelligence agency of America and was on the payroll of CIA till the late 1980s. Under Torrijos, who was the dictator of the central American republic before him, Noriega rose to become head of Panama's military intelligence.

On the run, he sought refuge in the Vatican's embassy, and according to popular rumor, he arrived disguised as a woman. He served 17 years before being extradited into 2010 to France, where he had been convicted of money laundering.

Noriega was taken to Florida and two years later he was convicted on eight of ten charges.

He said: "I apologise to anyone who feels offended, affected, harmed or humiliated by my actions or those of my superiors whilst carrying out orders, or those of my subordinates, during the time of my civilian and military government". Some of the biggest banks in the country were used to launder drug money under Noriega's power. "The Panamanian people have already overcome this period of dictatorship".

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