Monday, May 29, 2017

CIA Spy/ Fall Guy Manny Noriega Tits Up At 83

Can't say I'm gonna miss the little Dick-Tater.

Manuel Noriega, ousted Panamanian military dictator, dies at 83



Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian military dictator who often played opposing sides of Cold War-era political battles, until he was ousted by his on-again, off-again sponsors and toppled in a U.S. invasion, has died. He was 83.

A source close to Noriega's family told the Associated Press that he died late Monday. There was no immediate information on the cause of death.

Noriega operated as a spy for the CIA, laundered money for Colombian drug traffickers, and worked in support of leftist movements in Latin America like Nicaragua’s Sandinistas — only to also help in U.S. efforts to fight them.

As head of the Panamanian armed forces, he also trampled on his nation’s attempts at a democratic process, positioning loyal candidates for the presidency and assuring their victories, regardless of the actual vote. And all the while, he amassed a fortune in mostly illicit funds.


Once overthrown by U.S. forces in 1989, Noriega spent an inordinate amount of time in jail, as dictators go. An American court in Miami convicted him on drug-running charges and put him in prison for nearly 20 years; then he was sent to trial in France and finally extradited home to Panama in December 2011 to face more jail time.

Noriega never had ideological compunctions and enjoyed goading the U.S., until his bravado led to his undoing. Ironically, he might have been relegated to history’s footnotes, as a minor Latin American caudillo, or strongman, had it not been for the U.S. invasion of Panama.

“Except for the fact that the U.S. invaded his country, put him on trial and put him in prison all those years, Noriega would not have been considered an important figure,” said John Dinges, a former journalist and author of “Our Man in Panama,” the 1990 account of Noriega, his misdeeds and U.S. ties.

“He was high on the corruption scale, mid-range on the human rights [abuse] scale, and on the left-right scale, in the middle,” Dinges, now a professor at Columbia University, said in a telephone interview. “That does not make him the worst in Latin America.”

Then-President George H.W. Bush was not quite a year into his administration when he grew weary of Noriega’s increasingly belligerent taunts, his failure to cooperate with former patrons like the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, and mounting evidence of his ties to the notorious Medellin Cartel of Colombia.

As many observers of the era have since concluded, U.S. officials made the decision to get rid of Noriega, and then sought a cause. That came with a couple of isolated attacks on U.S. military personnel stationed in Panama, including the killing of one serviceman and the assault on a Navy officer and his wife.

On Dec. 20, 1989, Operation Just Cause was launched, with more than 26,000 U.S. troops deployed to the tiny isthmus nation. Bush also asserted the need to “protect” the strategic Panama Canal. It was, at the time, the largest American military operation since the Vietnam War. And it was, as Dinges put it, “like using a mallet to swat a fly.” Former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge CastaƱeda called it “the bloodiest, costliest and most disproportionate drug bust ever.”

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