Semester History Project
Manuel Noriega (1934-?), former dictator of Panama, found guilty of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering by the United States Jury. He was born in Panama City. After on a scholarship at the Chorrillos Military Academy in Lima, Peru, Noriega returned to Panama and was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in the National Guard. Close to the military strong man Omar Torrijos, Noriega advanced quickly and was appointed chief military intelligence when Torrijos seized power in 1969. In that position Noriega became the most feared man in the country. After the death of Torrijos in an airplane crash on 1981, Noriega became chief of staff to General Dario Pardes, head of the National Guard. Noriega promoted himself and gained affective control over the government. In 1986 charges of drug trafficking emerged, and in 1989 US forces invaded Panama, and in 1992 sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. Noriega will possibly be considered parole in the year 2002.
Childhood & Schooling:
Manuel Antonio Noriega was born on February 2, 1936, in Terraplen, Panama. Details on his early life are sketchy; his father Ricaurte Noriega, was an accountant and earned a modest income doing books for small businesses. His mother Maria Moreno, worked as a cook and laundress. It was unclear if his father and mother were ever married, although his father acknowledged paternity, by giving his son a full name, Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno. Both of his parents left Manuel and the circumstances of his departure could not be learned. His grandmother raised him as an orphan. From Manuel?s childhood
he had access to the presidential palace, the National Guard, and the Union Club. Growing up with foreign sailors and prostitutes and with a daily life filled with drunkenness and violence, Noriega became street smart without becoming tough (www.umi.com/support/k11/greatevents/noriega.html). His nickname was ?Tony? which only his friends called him. He was constantly beaten upon as a kid because he was small for his age and the bigger kids would pick on him. He was caught and beaten enough that by the time he was a teenager he carried a small pistol with him. As he grew older he was usually at the top of his class; he began living with Louis Carlos an organizer of the Socialist party and soon also became a recruit of the Socialist party. Noriega was not a full Panamanian, but his family line also consisted of Spanish and African American races; Panamanian people called them Creole. In Noriega?s high school yearbook he listed ?President of the republic,? as his major goal. In the late 1960s Noriega was recruited as an undercover agent for the CIA (www.umi.com/support/k11/greatevents/noriega.html). He wanted to be a psychiatrist, and applied to the University of Panama Medical School, but did not get in. He changed his motive to become a psychiatrist and sought to become a scientist. One of his friends Boris Martinez told him that he had run out of money to pay for the college and was going to graduate from military school in Mexico and qualify for second lieutenant. This is when Noriega decided to join the military school and apply for a high ranking soldier in the Nation Guard which he accomplished and found a reputation a being one of the most feared men in Panama.
Because of Noriega?s knowledge he was given a scholarship at the Chorrios Military Academy. After completing the Academy one of his good friends Lieutenant Colonel Omar Torrijos gave him a high position in the National Guard as lieutenant. After Noriega became lieutenant he found a reputation of being a very feared and powerful man. When the president of Panama Marco Robles was overthrown, Omar Torrijos took power and became general; he helped Noriega to again take an even higher position in the National Guard as captain. Noriega increased the size and the powers of the military, giving it control over much of Panama?s government and economy. In a few months his once good friend was accused of treason, once Torrijos heard this he wanted to leave the city to David garrison. That night while he was going there his plane crashed and he died. In the years after Torrijos?s death, civilian and National Guard leaders maneuvered for power. In 1983 a winner emerged, that winner was Manuel Antonio Noriega. The former head of the intelligence service was now the head of the National Guard Noriega took power. Although he did not hold a political office, as commander of the military he controlled the government. Astute and ruthless, Noriega built up the size of the military, which he renamed Panama Defense Forces, and greatly increased its power over the nation?s political life and its economy. Panama?s power had grown so much that it was being known of in the US, the States even gave economic support to the country (Microsoft Encarta 99). Although in many peoples eyes he was seen as an incompetent ruler because he only cared about the power and growth of the military.
The Noriega years witnessed widespread corruption, repression of the political opposition, and a trouble economy. Noriega made little pretence of following the constitution and rigged elections. Noriega was accused of ordering the torture and murder of a popular figure, Hugo Sapadaforas, in 1985, but when Panama?s president promised to investigate, Noriega replaced him with another civilian. Noriega used the military to imprison, torture, and sometimes kill his opponents so that he was always on top of things. Noriega also was linked with the international narcotics trade. He was accused of helping to smuggle drugs and launder money for Colombian drug cartels. Even though Noriega?s power as a dictator was growing many of the countries that helped Panama and traded with Panama slowly stopped. His relations with the United Stated deteriorated. Noriega bean a long time informant for the US central Intelligence Agency, and helped US officials to supply arms to conservative forces in Nicaragua. But by the 1980s, Noriega?s dictatorship and his alleged links to the international drug trade caused the US to withdraw its support for his government. At the same time street demonstrators began to occur regularly in Panama. Noriega?s dictatorship abilities were failing him, although he still controlled his army the people were beginning to doubt the government leader as being an able general. Noriega was at a downfall and he was now hearing that the US was thinking about taking him to court. Noriega would not stand for that so when the US sent troops to retrieve him he started passing out weapons to civilians and telling them to shoot and US troops.
From 1982-1984, General Noriega and his cohorts allegedly allowed Panama
to become the trans-shipment point for hundreds of kilos of cocaine. In addition to colluding with the various drug cartels for shipments, money laundering operations and bribery were commonplace. Yielding to US pressure, in 1984 Noriega ordered a raid on cocaine operation, stopped an airborne cartel shipment, and set-up a cooperative between the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and his anti-drug unit. In operation Pisces (a drug bust), Noriega?s men were instrumental in exchanging DEA-cartel communications, eventually leading to the arrest of 115 trafficking and seizure of over 10,000 pounds of cocaine (Microsoft Encarta 99). By 1988 his relations with the US began to sour, as it became apparent that previous activities of drug trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, and human rights violations were continuous. General Noriega was indicted by the US attorney?s office in Miami. In May of that year the US government made a ?good faith? plea bargain offer to the general. Some conditions of the agreement included dropping all criminal charges against him and allowing him free passage worldwide, in exchange for relinquishing control of the country and never resuming to Panama. The agreement was at first accepted, but the rejected by Noriega. On December of 1989 the US military brought a US military invasion of Panama. 24,000 troops invaded the city and, after a holdout, Noriega was eventually taken prisoner and transported to the US for trial. Once Noriega went to court the federal prosecution was fraught with subtle yet insidious manipulations. US Attorney Lehtinen and his staff were unprepared from the onset of the trial. The job of the prosecution was to prove the General Noriega?s money came from a drug conspiracy rather than graft or corruption (www.biography.com). With accusations of running ?the Enterprise? made against Noriega, the General, having fallen from grace with the US, made accusations of a US ?Enterprise?. With their claims came classified information, which would endanger national security. Noriega was trying to give out information that he knew about the government to try blackmailing them but it did not work. After many witnesses for the case, and approximately eight months of testimony, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. On July 10, 1992 the former Panamanian strongman/dictator was sentenced to 40 years in prison on 8 accounts of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering. He is presently awaiting an appeal of his sentence. General Manuel Antonio Noriega will serve his sentence in his two-room cell/suite at Metropolitan Correction Center in Miami. He will possibly have a chance for parole in 2002. This is still a example of the human race being to defiant on war and the power it could be to ones country
Manuel Antonio Noriega went through much hardship through his life, from his parents leaving him when he was very young to his drug smuggling in the US. Manuel started from a street-smart boy to a leader of a country; his helping of the Colombian guerilla fighters was the start of his power not only in Panama but also other parts of countries. Manuel also had many connections and became very wealthy through his drug trafficking and hostage securing for terrorists and now is in jail for it. Although Manuel is in prison right now he is living in very good conditions, with a color television, a computer, a paper shredder, a bicycle, and a good supply of Oreo cookies. The Department of Justice because of national security reasons supplied all these perks for him. This was the final step for Noriega when he was finally arested in 1991, although I think this was a wrong doing by America, they are treating him as a king, having the knowledge that he is a prisoner.