Panama’s General Manuel Antonio Noriega turns himself in to U.S. military soldiers on January 3rd, 1990; he had fortified the Vatican embassy at Panama City in a 10-day standoff and was now going to be indicted on drug trafficking charges. The following day brought out on the streets of Panama City dozens of citizens rejoicing the fact that Noriega had been flown to Miami to face justice for his crimes. The prior dictator was eventually convicted on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking and money laundering on July 10th, 1992; Noriega received a sentence of 40 years.
Born in 1938 in Panama, Noriega became a soldier who was loyal to General Omar Torrijos and in a 1968 coup had taken control. Noriega created the infamous G-2 intelligence service while serving under Torrijos; their function was to terrorize and harassed individuals who spoke out against the regime of Torrijos. Noriega was able to acquire money smuggling drugs while, at the same time, was an operative for the C.I.A.
There was a two-year struggle for control after Torrijos perished in a plane crash in 1981; Noriega seized control by becoming general of the military forced in Panama. Noriega was able to have presidential elections compromised so that he would put together officials that were his puppet’s; he earned the title of the country’s de facto leader. The rule of Noriega was labeled with violence and corruption while becoming a double agent; he sold intelligence secrets from America to Eastern European governments and Cuba. Panamanians attempted to create protests against his rule while insisting that he be removed in 1987; unfortunately, Noriega announced a national emergency that resulted in exiling his political enemies while shutting down newspapers and radio stations.
During the same year, the United States acted by restricting assistance to Panama as well as attempting to have Noriega resign as well as they started to think about using military action in 1998 in order to stop his actions regarding the trafficking of drugs. This resulted in the May 1989 presidential election to be voided by Noriega as the U.S. had backed one of the candidates; December of the same year saw Noriega empathized that Panama was now in a state of war against the United States. Panamanian soldiers murdered an American marine shortly afterward. This resulted in “Operation Just Cause” being authorized by President George H.W. Bush.
The goal was having 13,000 U.S. troops shipped to take control of Panama City on December 20th, 1989 and they would have the support of 12,000 additional soldiers previously stationed there; the end game was to seize Noriega. The invasion saw 300 U.S. troops being wounded while 23 died in action. The Panamanians total was more staggering as roughly 450 of their troops were dead while not only were thousands of civilians injured, the number of civilians who perished was estimated at a range starting from several hundred to tragically ending to several thousand.
Presently, Noriega is derogatorily given the nickname of “Pineapple Face” in referring to his pockmarked skin; he continues to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Miami at a federal prison.