Panama’s Ex-Dictator Noriega Dies

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, a onetime U.S. ally who was ousted as Panama’s dictator by an American invasion in 1989, died late Monday at age 83.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela wrote in his Twitter account that “the death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter in our history.”

Varela added, “His daughters and his relatives deserve to mourn in peace.”

Noriega served a 17-year drug sentence in the United States and was later sent to face charges in France. He spent all but the last few months of his final years in a Panamanian prison for the murders of political opponents during his 1983-89 regime.

He accused Washington of a “conspiracy” to keep him behind bars and tied his legal troubles to his refusal to cooperate with a U.S. plan aimed at toppling Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government in the 1980s.

In recent years Noriega suffered various ailments including high blood pressure and bronchitis.

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In 2016, doctors detected the rapid growth of a benign brain tumor that had first been spotted four years earlier, and in the following January a court granted him house arrest to prepare for surgery on the tumor.

He is survived by his wife Felicidad and daughters Lorena, Thays and Sandra.

Following Noriega’s ouster Panama underwent huge changes, taking over the Panama Canal from U.S. control in 1999, vastly expanding the waterway and enjoying a boom in tourism and real estate. Read the rest of this entry »