Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was for years a useful tool of the United States, until President George H.W. Bush lost patience with his brutal, drug-running rule and sent nearly 28,000 troops to invade the country and oust him.
Noriega, whose death at the age of 83 was announced late on Monday, was captured by U.S. forces in January 1990, two weeks after the massive invasion. He spent the rest of his life in custody in the United States, France and Panama for crimes ranging from murder to racketeering and drug-running.
With the knowledge of U.S. officials, Noriega formed “the hemisphere’s first narcokleptocracy,” a U.S. Senate subcommittee report said, calling him “the best example in recent U.S. foreign policy of how a foreign leader is able to manipulate the United States to the detriment of our own interests.”
After his capture, Noriega tried to turn the tables on the United States, saying it had worked hand in glove with him.
“Everything done by the Republic of Panama under my command was known,” Noriega said during his incarceration. “Panama was an open book.”
By the time he returned to Panama in a wheelchair in December 2011, Noriega was a shadow of the macho army general who swung a machete at rallies. In 2015, he asked the country for forgiveness for his notorious rule.