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Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega dead at 83

Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega hugs supporters on a visit to a remote town in June 1987 © AFP/File / JONATHAN UTZ

Panama City, Panama, May 30 – Panama’s former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, who died in Panama City late Monday, was physically diminished after decades of imprisonment for crimes committed during his 1983-1989 rule.

Noriega, 83, passed away in the Panama City public Santo Tomas hospital where he had been recovering from early March surgery to remove a brain tumor, and a subsequent operation to clean up cerebral bleeding.

The announcement of his death was made by government communications secretary Manuel Dominguez.

“Mr. Noriega died tonight (late Monday),” Dominguez told AFP.

Noriega had been serving prison time for murder and forced disappearances during his dictatorship, and was being held in a prison cell overlooking the Panama Canal.

The ex-strongman had been granted temporary release on January 28 to undergo the medical procedure.

Manuel Noriega who took power in Panama in 1983 and was ousted by US forces in 1989 © AFP/File / MANOOCHER DEGHATI

Following years of ill-health that included respiratory problems, prostate cancer and depression, Noriega’s family pleaded with authorities to him to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

But the government rejected their appeals, and said Noriega would return to prison once he recovered from the brain tumor surgery.

Noriega was toppled in a December 1989 US military invasion.

After surrendering to US troops in January 1990, he was flown to the United States where he was convicted on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and sentenced to prison.

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In 2010 Noriega was sent to France, where he was convicted on money laundering charges.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has his mug shot taken at El Renacer penitentiary, 25 km southeast of Panama City © MINISTERIO DE GOBIERNO/AFP/File

The following year Noriega was extradited to Panama, where he was locked up for the 1985 murder of a political opponent, the 1989 murder of a military officer who attempted a coup against him, and for the massacre of soldiers rebelling against him.

Other cases were pending against him for the disappearance of people before he became dictator, back when he headed Panama’s National Guard.

In 2015, Noriega had apologized “to anybody who felt offended, affected, prejudiced or humiliated by my actions.”


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