Following months of deteriorating health, Panama military strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega died Monday.
Noriega, who had been kept under close supervision at a Panama hospital, was 83-years old at the time of his death. He was being kept in intensive care after a complication from brain surgery in March and he died of a brain hemorrhage, Telemetro.com reported.
Noriega had surgery March 7 to remove a benign tumor from his brain. After the operation, he was brought back to the operating room for an emergency surgery after severe bleeding was discovered. He had been kept sedated by hospital staff until then, and his family decided to cease medical care late Monday.
Noriega’s daughter Sandra had confirmed that the former military general of Panama was in critical condition after a hemorrhage in his brain had inflamed. His spokesperson Ezra Angel told media that the bleeding in his head was controlled and he was sedated until Friday.
Noriega, who was the military leader of Panama from 1983 until 1989, was serving prison sentences in Panama for playing a role in two murders and several human rights violations. He was removed from prison and placed on house arrest for three months in late January so that he could obtain medical assistance for his health concerns.
In 1989, Noriega was removed from power by the United States during the invasion of Panama. He had unified the armed forces of Panama into the Panamanian Defense Forces in 1983 and appointed himself to general, thus becoming the “leader” of Panama. Six years after doing so in 1989, he canceled presidential elections and tried to rule the country through a “puppet government.” A military coup against his regime was attempted, but failed until the U.S. invaded Panama and he surrendered in 1990.
Before he was captured, though, Noriega had a familiar relationship with the U.S. Through the late 1950s until the 1980s, he worked closely with the Central Intelligence Agency. He was officially on the agency’s payroll and allowed the U.S. to set up “listening posts” in Panama. He’s believed to have been a vital channel for U.S. funds to Nicaraguan rebels that were fighting against the Sandinista government.
When he rose to power, the U.S. largely looked away until the relationship between the two turned sour, and he was removed from his post.
In 1988, Noriega was indicted in Miami on charges of drug trafficking. He was charged with eight counts of trafficking the drugs as well as racketeering and money laundering. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1992 — later dropped to 30 years.
After a long court battle that found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Noriega’s prison sentence in Miami ended and he was extradited to France in 2010 on similar charges. He was found guilty and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in France for laundering drug money in the country. Over $3 million of the money that was frozen in his accounts was seized as well.
Noriega was granted a conditional release from his prison stay in France in 2011, and he was extradited to Panama where he was to complete a 20-year sentence that stemmed from several deaths and human rights violations in the country.
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