Former Panamanian dictator and convicted drug trafficker Manuel Noriega has died at the age of 83.
Once one of Central America’s most notorious dictators, Noriega underwent surgery in a Panama City hospital on March 7 to remove a benign brain tumor and suffered severe brain hemorrhaging. Following the surgery, he was placed in a medically induced coma.
Because of his country’s location on the Panama Canal, Noriega once had an amicable relationship with the United States. But as relations between the two countries deteriorated, Noriega became a target of the U.S., which invaded Panama in 1989.
Noriega was indicted in the United States in 1989 on charges of racketeering, laundering drug money and drug trafficking. The former dictator was accused of having ties to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel and amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune as a result of their association.
Noriega’s trial in 1991 was known at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as the “trial of the century” in which he was found guilty on eight counts and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. He served nearly 20 years in U.S. prisons before extradition to France and, later, back to Panama.
Noriega earned the dubious distinction of being the first foreign head of state to be convicted in a U.S. court. The trial ultimately led to revelations that Noriega was paid as a CIA asset for years.
In 2015, Noriega apologized to Panama for the offenses of his regime and his own actions that resulted in the U.S. invasion in 1989, and his topple from power.
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