For­mer dic­ta­tor Nor­iega dies at 83

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA WORLD - JUAN ZAMORANO AND KATHIA MARTINEZ

PANAMA CITY — For­mer Pana­ma­nian dic­ta­tor Manuel Nor­iega, a one-time U.S. ally who was ousted by an Amer­i­can in­va­sion in 1989, died late Mon­day at age 83.

Pana­ma­nian Pres­i­dent Juan Car­los Varela wrote in his Twit­ter ac­count that “the death of Manuel A. Nor­iega closes a chapter in our his­tory.”

Varela added, “His daugh­ters and his rel­a­tives de­serve to mourn in peace.”

Nor­iega ruled with an iron fist, or­der­ing the deaths of those who op­posed him and main­tain­ing a murky, close and con­flic­tive re­la­tion­ship with the United States.

Af­ter his down­fall, Nor­iega served a 17-year drug sen­tence in the United States, then was sent to face charges in France. He spent all but the last few months of his fi­nal years in a Pana­ma­nian prison for mur­der of po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents dur­ing his 1983-89 regime.

He ac­cused Wash­ing­ton of a con­spir­acy to keep him be­hind bars and tied his le­gal trou­bles to his re­fusal to co-op­er­ate with a U.S. plan aimed at top­pling Nicaragua’s left­ist San­din­ista gov­ern­ment in the 1980s.

In re­cent years Nor­iega suf­fered var­i­ous ail­ments in­clud­ing high blood pres­sure and bron­chi­tis.

In 2016, doc­tors de­tected the rapid growth of a be­nign brain tu­mour that had first been spot­ted four years ear­lier, and in Jan­uary a court granted him house ar­rest to pre­pare for surgery on the tu­mour.

He is sur­vived by his wife Feli­ci­dad and daugh­ters Lorena, Thays and San­dra.

Fol­low­ing Nor­iega’s ouster Panama un­der­went huge changes, tak­ing over the Panama Canal from U.S. con­trol in 1999, vastly ex­pand­ing the wa­ter­way and en­joy­ing a boom in tourism and real es­tate.

To­day the Cen­tral Amer­i­can na­tion has lit­tle in com­mon with the bombed-out neigh­bour­hoods where Nor­iega hid dur­ing the 1989 in­va­sion, be­fore be­ing fa­mously smoked out of his refuge at the Vat­i­can Em­bassy by in­ces­sant, loud rock mu­sic blared by U.S. troops.

Known mock­ingly as “Pineap­ple Face” for his pock­marked com­plex­ion, Manuel An­to­nio Nor­iega was born poor in Panama City on Feb. 11, 1934, and was raised by foster par­ents.

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

Two years af­ter Tor­ri­jos died in a mys­te­ri­ous plane crash in 1981, Nor­iega be­came the head of the armed forces and Panama’s de facto ruler.

TNS

Manuel Nor­iega

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