WASHINGTON – Manuel Antonio Noriega, the former military ruler of Panama who was ousted when the U.S. invaded the Central American nation in 1989, died Monday, Panamian officials said. He was 83.
Noriega died late on Monday local time in Panama City’s Santo Tomas hospital, Secretary of State for Communication Manuel Dominguez announced.
Noriega had suffered a brain hemorrhage after he had surgery in March to remove a brain tumor, the first of two such operations.
The former dictator, who ruled the country from 1983 to 1989, was released from prison in January and transferred to house arrest in Panama for his operation.
Noriega, who spied for the CIA before his drug trafficking and brutal regime sparked the US invasion, served a 17-year drug sentence in America and was later sent to face charges in France.
His last years were spent in prison in Panama for murder, corruption an embezzlement.
He accused the U.S. government of a conspiracy to keep him imprisoned and blamed this legal troubles on his refusal to cooperate with a U.S. plan to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government in the 1980s.
Noriega was indicted in a U.S. federal court on drug-trafficking charges in 1988. After U,S. observers accused him of stealing the 1989 election, President George H.W. Bush launched the Operation Just Cause invasion, sending in nearly 28,000 troops.
Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Panama City.
US troops flushed him out by blasting pop and heavy-metal music non-stop outside.
Noriega is survived by his wife, Felicidad, and three daughters.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, tweeted: “The death of Manuel A Noriega closes a chapter in our history; his daughters and relatives deserve a funeral in peace.”
This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.
Regina Holmes has more than two decades of experience as a journalist –editing and reporting for news dailies including the Miami Herald, Newsday and the Baltimore Examiner.