Former Panama military ruler Manuel Noriega dies at age 83

Noriega ruled the country from 1983 to 1989. He was serving a sentence for murder when he died. He was at one point a CIA spy whom the US eventually turned on as his drug running and abuses of power soured the relationship.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A police mugshot of Manuel Antonio Noriega at the El Renacer penitentiary, Panama. (File photo)

Manuel Antonio Noriega, who took power in Panama in 1983 and was ousted by US forces in 1989, died late on Monday in Panama City.

President Juan Carlos Varela announced Noriega's death and said his passing marked the closing of a chapter in Panama's history.

​Noriega ruled Panama from 1983 to 1989. He spied for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until the United States invaded and toppled his government, ending a criminal career that saw him working with drug traffickers like Pablo Escobar.

Noriega was initially sentenced in the United States in 1992 but was serving a sentence for murder in Panama when he died.

The military ruler of the Central American nation made world headlines as his relationship with Washington soured, culminating in the US sending nearly 28,000 troops to seize Panama City and capture him.

​Noriega spent the rest of his life in custody between the United States, France and Panama for crimes ranging from murder to racketeering and drug-running.

The former military strongman had undergone an operation in March to remove a brain tumour but suffered a haemorrhage and had been in a coma since a second surgical intervention.

With the knowledge of US officials, Noriega formed "the hemisphere's first narcokleptocracy," a US Senate subcommittee report said. The report called Noriega "the best example in recent US foreign policy of how a foreign leader is able to manipulate the United States to the detriment of our own interests."

After his capture, Noriega said the US had worked hand in glove with him.

Panama's former President Manuel Solis Palma (L) and General Manuel Antonio Noriega. (Reuters file photo)

TRTWorld and agencies