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.
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