Facts about Manuel Noriega
Manuel Noriega Biography
General Manuel Noriega was the ruler of Panama from 1983 until 1989, when he was arrested by the United States on charges of drug trafficking.
Noriega was convicted at a Miami trial in 1992 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Although his U.S. sentence was reduced and he was released in 2007, he was jailed in France for murder and money laundering, then again in Panama in 2011, where he died.
Born in Panama City, Noriega joined the National Guard there in 1962. He rose to head intelligence and security forces under military dictator Omar Torrijos.
Torrijos died in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances in 1981, and after a power struggle for leadership, Noriega emerged as Panama’s new leader in 1983.
Manuel Noriega’s career in Panama was supported by the United States — he was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s as an informant. Because Noriega became a well-known thug by the 1980s, President George Bush was heavily criticized in 1989 for standing by while a coup against Noriega failed.
Then a United States federal grand jury indicted Noriega on drug trafficking charges.
Noriega became an embarrassment to the U.S. (at best), and President Bush ordered forces into Panama City to arrest him in December of 1989. The dictator squirreled himself away at the Vatican Embassy in Panama, while U.S. troops blared rock music at him as part of “psychological warfare.” He was soon captured and taken to Miami.
Noriega’s subsequent trial and prison sentence fell out of the public consciousness, as did the details of his complex relationship with the United States government under Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush.