(born Feb. 11, 1938, Panama City, Pan.) Panamanian general who was the actual power behind a civilian president. Born into a poor family, he attended military school in Peru and joined Panama's National Guard on his return. As chief of military intelligence in the 1970s, he cooperated with the Central Intelligence Agency and negotiated the release of U.S. freighter crews held by Cuba, but he was tainted by persistent reports of drug trafficking and brutality. In 1989, as head of the armed forces, he canceled election results that displeased him. The U.S. government then invaded Panama, primarily to capture Noriega. He was brought to trial in the U.S., convicted of racketeering, drug trafficking, and money laundering, and sentenced to 40 years in prison. His jail term was later reduced. Noriega completed his sentence on Sept. 9, 2007, but he remained in prison as he appealed his extradition to France, where in 1999 he had been tried in absentia and convicted of money laundering and other crimes.
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