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Former Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega Dies

Former Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega Dies

Noriega died Monday at a public hospital at age 83 after spending all but the last few months of his final years in a Panamanian prison.

Writing on Twitter, journalist Jon Lee Anderson said Noriega told him in an interview previous year that he had made a mistake in challenging the United States.

Nevertheless, in 2015 Noriega issued a blanket apology "to anybody who felt offended, affected, prejudiced or humiliated by my actions". The official cause of death was not immediately available, although reports say a once-benign brain tumor is at the root of a brain hemorrhage that lead to a series of other medical complications. He also said that Noriega's daughters and his family deserves to bury him in peace.

As he clawed his way out of an impoverished childhood, Noriega looked first not to the military, but the medical profession for his preferred profession. Noriega's family was of Colombian descent and were not financially well off.

Following Noriega's ouster Panama underwent huge changes. Noriega was a supporter of Torrijos, and was soon promoted to lieutenant colonel.

Noriega was indicted in a USA federal court on drug-trafficking charges in 1988. 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.

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In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty with then-strongman General Omar Torrijos, promising the return of the Panama Canal Zone to full Panamanian control by the year 2000.

-Feb. 25, 1988: Delvalle tries to remove Noriega as Defense Forces commander, but legislature removes Delvalle instead.

Born less than a mile from the US -controlled Panama Canal Zone in a tough Panama City neighborhood, Noriega was raised by a family friend. The Central American country of 3.9 million people is considered a favored transshipment point for drugs and a haven for money laundering. Around this time Noriega reportedly goes onto the CIA's payroll.

The CIA station chief in Panama in the mid-1980s, Donald Winters, said in an interview that the US government regularly paid Noriega as an intelligence asset.

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. In December 1989, President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama.

In 2010 Noriega was extradited to France, where he was convicted of money laundering, then extradited to Panama the following year in poor health.

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But Washington ultimately soured on him, especially after a top political opponent was killed in 1985 and Noriega appeared to join forces with Latin American drug traffickers.

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.

Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Panama City.

Manuel Noriega's January 1990 USA mug shot.

Eisenmann also mocked Noriega for taking refuge in the Vatican Embassy when USA troops invaded in December 1989, instead of standing his ground like a soldier.

Manuel Noriega had become a problem.

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