Relics of Narcissism and Narcotics Cease in Panama

Annabelle Xing and Ella Toback

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This morning, on May 30, 2017, President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama tweeted: “The death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter in our history; his daughters and his relatives deserve to bury him in peace.”

Manuel Antonio Noriega has died at the age of 83. Noriega was a former dictator of Panama and for some time, an ally of the United States. However, the U.S. ousted him in 1989 for drug trafficking crimes. It was the largest movement of the American military after the Vietnam War.

He died at around 11 pm on Monday at the Santo Tomás Hospital in Panama City. The cause of death has not been released. Noriega has been in the hospital since March 7, after surgery on a benign brain tumor, according to his lawyer. He was granted house arrest to get ready for the operation in January 2017. While serving in prison abroad for murder, embezzlement, and corruption crimes during his ruling (in 1980s), Noriega suffered from strokes and hypertension, high blood pressure and physiological stress,  among other ailments.

Noriega’s lived a luxurious life surrounded by drug-trade riches, cocaine (the fruits of drug trafficking), machetes, antique guns and teddy bears dressed as paratroopers.

 

Political Career:

Noriega had promoted himself from a de facto leader to a full general of armed forces through his dynamic nationalist speeches. During his dictatorship, he became an ally of the United States, informing drug and intelligence agencies. Quickly, he turned shady and antagonistic. He sold secrets regarding the United States to sworn enemies in the Western Hemisphere. It was often hard to tell which side held his allegiance.

According to the 1990 book, “In the Time of Tyrants,” by journalists Richard M. Koster and Guillermo Sánchez Borbón, Noriega provided the United States with secrets about Cuba, but at the same time he sold Panamanian passports to FIdel Castro to hand out to Cuban and Soviet secret agents.

The downfall of Noriega’s dictatorship began with the assassination of Dr. Hugo Spadafora, a well-known longtime critic of the country’s military, in 1985. Political unrest filled Panama as protestors took the streets and accusations of Noriega’s affiliation with Colombian drug cartels flew.

In 1986, the U.S. Senate called for Panama to remove Noriega from the Panamanian Defense Forces and opened an investigation for charges of corruption, election fraud, murder and drug trafficking.

The following year, Congress cut of military and economic aid to Panama, causing the country’s economy to deflate by a staggering 20 percent. Following, Noriega was accused for turning Panama into a shipping platform for South American drugs headed for U.S. and allowing drugs to be hidden in Panamanian banks.

In 1988, there was a failed coup as Noriega tried organizing protests in Panama against the United States and later declared war on U.S. Panamanian troops injured multiple innocent American soldiers and threatened sexual assault on the wives of many. At last, President George W. Bush announced the invasion of 27,000 troops.

After Noriega ran into hiding at the Vatican embassy, a long standoff between the Panamanian government and U.S. troops followed. At one point, American forces even resorted to blasting heavy metal to torment Noriega and prevent reporters from hearing conversations between military and Vatican officials.

Finally on January 3, 1990, Noriega surrendered and was flown to jail in Florida.

 

Wealth:

The book, “In the Time of Tyrants” estimated that his fortune was about $772 million. But shortly after his downfall, the White House released that his fortune was between $200 and $300 million.

 

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

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Relics of Narcissism and Narcotics Cease in Panama