Noriega

Noriega

[nawr-ee-ey-guh, nawr-yey]
Noriega, Manuel Antonio, 1938-, Panamanian general. Commander of the Panamanian Defense Forces from 1983, Noriega consolidated the strong-armed rule inherited from Gen. Omar Torrijos Herrera, and became the de facto leader of Panama. A one-time operative for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, he was implicated in drug trafficking, the sale of U.S. secrets to Cuba, and other illegal activities. U.S. officials urged him to step down (Jan., 1988), but he refused. Following the murder of a U.S. marine on the streets of Panama City, President George H. W. Bush ordered troops to Panama (Dec., 1989). Noriega was captured and brought to the United States to stand trial. He was convicted (Apr., 1992) on charges of racketeering, money laundering, and drug trafficking, and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison (later reduced to 17 years). France sought to extradite Noriega after his sentence ended in 2007, and he remained in U.S. custody into early 2010 while unsuccessfully fighting extradition.

(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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