Manuel Noriega, Ousted Panamanian Dictator, Is Dead at 83

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who spied for the CIA before his regime sparked an US invasion in 1989 has died at 83. He underwent an operation in March to remove a brain tumor but suffered a hemorrhage and had been in a coma since a second surgical intervention.

Noriega, who suffered from prostate cancer and survived several strokes, was the first foreign leader to be convicted of crimes in a U.S. court and served more than a dozen years in U.S. prison before he was finally allowed to return home to Panama.

The U.S. invasion of Panama (FILE)

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela also tweeted: “closes a chapter in our history; his daughters and their families deserve a burial in peace.”

Noriega was a military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, when he was removed from power by the United States during the invasion of Panama.

General Colin Powell, centre, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Panama invasion.

From the 1950s until shortly before the U.S. invasion, Noriega worked closely with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Noriega was one of the CIA’s most valued intelligence sources, as well as one of the primary conduits for illicit weapons, military equipment and cash destined for U.S.-backed counter-insurgency forces throughout Central and South America. Noriega was also a major cocaine trafficker, something which his U.S. intelligence handlers were aware of for years, but allowed because of his usefulness for their covert military operations in Latin America.

Noriega mugshot

In 1988, Noriega was indicted by the United States on drug trafficking charges in Miami, Florida. During the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama, he was removed from power, captured, detained as a prisoner of war, and flown to the United States. Noriega was tried on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering in April 1992. On September 16, 1992, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison, which was later reduced to 30 years.