Manuel Noriega: biography, overthrow and judgment


Drug lord, CIA agent, ruler of Panama - the biography of Manuel Noriega includes all of the items listed. The very life of the former leader of this country is simply shrouded in secrets - even now, after his death, it is impossible to say exactly about everything that he managed to do. The current president of Panama, Juan Varela, explicitly admitted that his death marked the end of an entire chapter in the country's history. Let now his name does not cause such a public outcry as in the 80s and 90s of the 20th century, but Manuel Noriegu should not be forgotten. This article will discuss how this tyrant came to power, as well as the subsequent overthrow and trial.


Probably few people would have thought that the little boy would become the supreme leader of the national liberation of Panama, be able to achieve such heights of power and de facto rule the country for 6 years. The future tyrant was born in one of the poorest districts of Panama in February 1934. His full name - Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno - was given to him by his parents, who by the standards of the country were considered mestizos, that is, they had the blood of Americans, Africans and Spaniards.

It is now believed that his father served as an accountant, and his mother - a cook or laundress in the capital of the country - the city of Panama City. However, in his life she practically didn’t notice - in early childhood of Manuel she died from tuberculosis. He was educated by his godmother, which in general led to the fact that many writers and journalists now recognize him as the illegitimate offspring of his father, and the true parent is called a home servant by the name of Moreno.


In adolescence, the future dictator did not want to become a military man - his dream was to work as a doctor. He even entered medical courses, but after that he decided to go to a military school in Peru. Manuel Noriega returned to Panama as a junior lieutenant in 1962.

Situation in the country

As is known, the history of Panama is inextricably linked with the history of the United States, since it was with their support that the country was able to declare its independence from Colombia in 1903. In addition, the overwhelming military power of America over the southern countries forced them to make concessions. One of the most famous was the transfer of control over the Panama Canal under construction. So you can safely say that in the XX century it was the United States that dictated the policy of Panama.

In addition, the situation in the country itself, and especially in its capital, Panama City, was simply explosive. Short periods of civilian rule were constantly replaced by military coups, during which the next authorities tried to weaken America’s yoke a little. However, in October 1968, the situation in the country changed abruptly - a new junta came to power under the rule of Omar Torrijos.


She was left-centered, which was very different from other parties, and the US authorities did not like it very much. It was ordered to organize a coup, which was what the CIA agents were busy trying to overthrow the government of Torrijos and bring the people loyal to Washington to power. It was at this time that the star of Manuel Noriega began to shine.

The beginning of the way

When Noriega returned to Panama, he became a member of the National Guard of Panama. Torrijos was his first commander, and at the beginning of his career, the commander helped the future dictator well and for some time acted as his patron. However, soon Manuel Noriega simply began to play, and therefore was exiled to the province of Chiriqui. At the time of the rule of Torrijos, he commanded the local troops, and therefore the running head of the junta went to his protege because the troops completely subordinate to him remained in Chiriqui. It was from here that Torrijos began to act, gradually organizing a march to the capital with the participation of the poor strata of the population, as a result of which he was able to regain power in Panama.

CIA Agent

As you know, in 1966 Noriega several times attended various courses in American schools. Torrijos himself sent him there, hoping to form the person he needed from a subordinate. Later, however, Manuel directly admitted that even during his first training at a military college in Peru, he began to cooperate with the American special services, and over time became one of the CIA agents.


In fact, he played on two fronts, since both Torrijos and the United States considered him for a long time to be their man. After the seizure of power by Omar Torrijos, Noriega himself was promoted to colonel, and also put in charge of intelligence and counterintelligence. Funny enough, it was the spy of another country that was given the post.

Death of a ruler

As you know, Torrijos incredibly trusted Manuel Noriege, so until his death he was in high positions. In addition, the strife between him and the United States ended, important agreements were signed, according to one of which, in 1999, the US authorities pledged to give the channel to the authorities of Panama. In some ways, President Jimmy Carter recognized the independence of the country. Such changes in the political current made Torrijos a national hero. Until his death, he played an incredibly important role in the process of governing the country, although he legally retired.


All this put an end to the death of the former revolutionary. He crashed on an airplane on July 31, 1981, under circumstances that in the future gave rise to many rumors. Although the pilot’s mistake was the official position, it’s generally accepted that it was Manuel Noriega who wanted to take power for himself. However, repeated attempts to blame him failed, because there was not a single proof.

Country Commander

General Manuel Noriega did not officially hold any public office in the country, so he was not legally a ruler in Panama. But in fact, becoming the commander in chief of the national defense forces of Panama in 1983, it was he who ruled the state. And having received power, he began to conduct his own policy.

The first thing he decided to throw off the protectorate of the United States. Washington believed that since a person loyal to them is in power, they will always be able to come to an agreement with each other. But it was not there. The package of reforms proposed by America, which could have a negative effect on the living standards of the country's citizens, was sharply rejected, and then the cooling off period began in relations between Panama and the United States.

Foreign and domestic policy of Noriega

When in 1985, Manuel Noriega decided to weightily review the economic course of the poorest country, at the same time he had to solve problems in the international arena. The United States did not like the stubbornness of their former agent, who also refused to revise the conditions of the Panama Canal issue. That is why the dictator decided to turn to Central America, the countries of the socialist camp and Western Europe, which further angered the superpower.


Deciding to punish the stubborn, America declared that it would cease to provide any military and economic assistance to Panama. In addition to this, the court passed the sentence: Noriega was declared a member of an organized criminal group that transported narcotic drugs. Further sanctions from the United States only continued to increase - the number of American troops in the country was increased, and it was also forbidden to transfer any funds from the United States to Panama.

Ultimatum usa

In May 1988, Noriege was directly proposed by the United States: he either quits his post, or he is accused of drug trafficking. The de facto ruler of Panama, being an unbearably proud man, did not make concessions.

His constant refusals led to the fact that in 1989 were imposed tough economic sanctions. The dictator himself began to be directly accused of all the troubles of the country, and in addition to this, the US continued to increase the contingent of troops in Panama. It was quite clear what exactly the situation was headed for, and therefore, in October 1989, the first attempt to overthrow the Noriega regime took place. She was unsuccessful, because the general easily suppressed the rebellion, but became a kind of impetus to subsequent events.


It was soon announced that Panama was ready for constructive negotiations with the United States, but only if they did not interfere with the freedom and sovereignty of the country. Hoping for support in this matter from the Soviet Union, Noriega and the de facto president of Panama, Francisco Rodriguez, are cruelly miscalculated. At that time, the USSR was already on the verge of collapse, so Gorbachev simply could not disperse his forces even on a small country in Latin America.

"Just cause"

The overthrow and trial of Manuel Noriega are rooted in the Right Cause operation of December 20, 1989. To implement it, about 26 thousand American soldiers invaded the country - Panama simply could not win, because its army did not exceed 12 thousand. The fighting finally subsided on December 25, although in recent days they were local. Guillermo Endar came to power, who was another protege of America.

Now he explicitly admits that several war crimes were committed during this operation. There were even several criminal cases involving soldiers who were shot by local residents, but this is a completely different matter. Noriega himself, fleeing the soldiers, took refuge in the Vatican embassy. However, over time, he managed to smoke out, and the former ruler surrendered to the troops. He was waiting for his trial in Miami.


Court sentence

Already in 1990, the army of Panama ceased to exist, and the regimes of Torrijos and Noriega were recognized as bloody and illegitimate. However, Panama continued to live, and soon the former ruler was forgotten. The trial of Manuel Noriega itself was carried out in July 1992 - he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking, and this was already a short term. The reason for the mitigation was directly recognized long-term cooperation with the CIA of America.

In total, he served 15 years in prison, after which he was extradited to France, where he was again sentenced to seven years. However, he did not serve a year here, since he was again returned to Panama, which rendered him his term - 60 years after the sentence of political assassinations. Although, according to the laws of the country, he had the right to conduct his detention under house arrest, the authorities of the country showed harshness and sent him precisely to prison. He was there until the stroke in 2017, after which a brain tumor was discovered. Shortly thereafter, the former ruler of Panama died at the age of 83.

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