Manuel Noriega, Ousted Panamanian Dictator, Is Dead at 83

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Noriega died late on Monday local time in Panama City's Santo Tomas hospital, Secretary of State for Communication Manuel Dominguez announced.

Varela tweeted that the death of Manuel A Noriega closes a chapter in their history.

"It's wrong what people say - that you can buy him", said Ambler Moss, the former U.S. ambassador to Panama.

Ezra Angel, a lawyer for Noriega, said Tuesday there was no official word on what caused his death. He was later jailed in the USA on drugs and laundering charges, spending the rest of his life in custody in Panama after he was charged with murder, corruption, and embezzlement.

Noriega had surgery in March to remove a brain tumour, having been let out of prison under house arrest in January because of ill health. But the government rejected their appeals, and said Noriega would return to prison once he recovered from the brain tumor surgery.

- February 11, 1934: Born in Panama City. It took over the Panama Canal from US control in 1999, vastly expanded the waterway and has seen a boom in tourism and real estate. However a 10-mile wide area surrounding the canal, known as the Panama Canal Zone, was considered unincorporated U.S. territory until the canal was handed over to Panama in December 1999.

After his capture, Noriega tried to turn the tables on the USA, saying: "Everything done by the Republic of Panama under my command was known".

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Initially he reacted with defiance, thumbing his nose at US economic sanctions created to drive him from power.

In an interview on Panamanian TV two years ago, Noriega read out a statement of apology.

He joined Panama's Defense Forces in 1962 and steadily advanced through the ranks, mainly through loyalty to his mentor, Gen. Omar Torrijos, who became Panama's de facto leader after a 1968 coup.

Following the invasion, Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy and driven out in ten days by loud music blasted at the facility by USA troops.

"The United States understood that Noriega is not the same man that was lieutenant colonel", Noriega told American filmmaker Oliver Stone, who interviewed him in a USA federal prison in 1993.

Yet it was not until Noriega openly interfered with the 1989 Panamanian presidential election, seizing ballot boxes and installing his preferred candidate, that the USA openly began plotting his downfall. Some 28,000 troops landed on the country on 20 December 1989. A year later the United States invaded Panama and seized Noriega as a prisoner of war. He originally served a 17-year-drug sentence in America and was later sent to France to face charges.

Noriega returned home as a wheelchair-bound broken man suffering from a series of ailments. Referring to himself as the "last general of the military era", Noriega apologized to those "offended, affected, injured or humiliated" by his own actions or those of his superiors and subordinates during the regime that he began serving as a low-ranking officer in the 1960s. He likely went to the grave without divulging many secrets built up over a lifetime of shady dealings.

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