Manuel Noriega, former Panama dictator, dead at 83

07 June, 2017, 18:47 | Author: Ruben Patrick

Once on friendly terms with the United States because of his country's location on the Panama Canal, Noriega became a U.S. target as relations deteriorated.

But a statement from the Department of Communications notes that while Noriega was briefly declared head of government in 1989, that act that was subsequently ruled unconstitutional.

Extradited to Miami, Noriega served 20 years in a Florida prison for drug trafficking.

Though dates vary, Noriega was most likely born in 1934. It was only after he was denied admission from medical school as a young man - likely because of his financial circumstances - that Noriega continued his studies at a military academy in Peru. His mentor Gen Omar Torrijos led a coup in 1968 and took over the reigns of the country.

Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela announced Noriega's death via Twitter.

The Central American strongman made world headlines as his relationship with Washington soured.

Noriega's relationship with the United States turned sour when he was forcibly removed as American troops invaded his country in 1989. He worked with Pablo Escobar and was accused of helping the Medellin cartel send tons and tons of cocaine to the US.

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Noriega, who took power in Panama in 1983, was in a hospital recovering from a brain tumour operation. Indeed, Noriega was so trusted by the US that, as CNN notes, the USA government requested that he travel to Cuba to seek the release of "two American freighters seized by Cuba" in 1971.

Ezra Angel tells The Associated Press that "we are asking for the family to be given space to say goodbye to their father in peace and tranquility".

Ultimately, Noriega's downfall was more motivated by the political troubles he was giving the United States than by his apparent corruption. "You may think what you like of Noriega, but we can't say he was anything but respectful toward his neighbors".

He spent all but the last few months of his final years in a Panamanian prison. After he completed that sentence in 2007, he was imprisoned in France for money laundering, before being returned in 2011 to Panama, where he had already been convicted in absentia.

As part of an extradition deal in April 2010 and signed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, France agreed to hold a new trial and to uphold Noriega's prisoner of war status. He was still serving that sentence when he went into surgery. A California judge dismissed the suit. Sometimes these leaders rule unethically by Western standards, yet we remain allied to them because our economic interests align.

Noriega is survived by his wife, Felicidad Sieiro and three daughters Sandra, Thays and Lorena.

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