Voodoo mon­ster who made a fool of Amer­ica

... un­til they took re­venge on Gen­eral Nor­iega – who’s died aged 83 – by blast­ing him out of his Panama lair with ear-split­ting heavy metal mu­sic

Daily Mail - - Election 2017 - from Tom Leonard IN NEW YORK

He was a co­caine-snort­ing killer who prac­tised black magic with vats of blood and an­i­mal en­trails, boasted of hav­ing a witch on his staff and a por­trait of adolf Hitler on his wall.

These were the breath­less claims made by the U.s. govern­ment when it in­vaded Panama in 1989 and de­throned its fear­some dic­ta­tor, Gen­eral Manuel Nor­iega, blast­ing him out of his sanc­tu­ary in the Vat­i­can em­bassy af­ter ten days of ex­po­sure to ear-split­ting heavy metal mu­sic.

what wash­ing­ton con­ve­niently omit­ted to add was that the bru­tal ruler had also been a CIa agent for decades, even as he made hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars help­ing drug traf­fick­ers flood the U.s. with co­caine and mar­i­juana.

amer­ica has backed some deeply un­savoury types in its long war against com­mu­nism, but few came more vi­cious and de­praved than Nor­iega, who has died aged 83. Given his pen­chant for leav­ing op­po­nents head­less in jun­gle clear­ings, it was very much a deal with the devil.

His pass­ing on Mon­day night — in a Panama City hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing a botched brain tu­mour op­er­a­tion — ends an episode in the his­tory of CIa med­dling that it would love the world to for­get.

as a U.s. se­nate in­ves­ti­ga­tion later ruled on what it called one of the na­tion’s ‘most se­ri­ous for­eign pol­icy fail­ures’, Nor­iega was al­lowed, with amer­i­can con­nivance, to es­tab­lish the west­ern hemi­sphere’s first ‘nar­cok­lep­toc­racy’ — a govern­ment that re­volved around il­le­gal drug deal­ing and cor­rup­tion.

Pineap­ple Face, as Nor­iega was nick­named due to his heav­ily pock­marked skin (al­though he pre­ferred the moniker ‘Max­i­mum Leader’), was a wily po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tor who ran the tiny Central amer­i­can state from 1983 to 1990.

Its pos­ses­sion of the Panama Canal, prox­im­ity to left-wing regimes such as Nicaragua and Cuba, and po­si­tion on the co­caine traf­fick­ing route up from Colom­bia, meant the U.s. was des­per­ately keen to have a friendly face in power.

But as with sad­dam Hus­sein, with whom he is of­ten com­pared, amer­ica’s friend­ship with Nor­iega be­came in­creas­ingly fraught as he be­came first an em­bar­rass­ment and fi­nally a threat so se­ri­ous he had to be re­moved by force.

Nor­IeGa,

who re­port­edly wore red Y-fronts to ‘ ward off the evil eye’ and kept a col­lec­tion of teddy bears dressed as para­troop­ers, lived the life of a de­bauched drug king. The co­caine-fu­elled par­ties in his man­sions were leg­endary, with var­i­ous mis­tresses and pros­ti­tutes on tap — even as he posed as a cru­cial ally in wash­ing­ton’s war on drugs.

He pulled off the same feat in amer­ica’s other great bat­tle in Latin amer­ica — against com­mu­nism. while pro­vid­ing the U.s. with se­crets about Cuba, he sold its leader Fidel Cas­tro thou­sands of Pana­ma­nian pass­ports at $5,000 each for use by Cuban and pos­si­bly soviet bloc agents. He tor­tured and mur­dered po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents with aban­don. against or­di­nary Pana­ma­ni­ans who dared to protest, he un­leashed his feared anti-riot thugs the ‘ Dober­mans’, and his para­mil­i­tary ‘ Dig­nity Bat­tal­ions’, who mer­ci­lessly at­tacked peace­ful demon­stra­tors with clubs, rub­ber hoses and, later, even sniper ri­fles.

Nor­iega, of mixed euro­pean de­scent, was born in a Panama City slum in 1934, but ex­celled at school. He wanted to be a psy­chi­a­trist but, fail­ing to get into med­i­cal school, opted for a ca­reer in Panama’s National Guard. He was re­cruited as a CIa agent while at a mil­i­tary academy in Peru in 1967. The fol­low­ing year, a mil­i­tary coup in Panama pro­vided him with the op­por­tu­nity for ad­vance­ment and he be­came in­tel­li­gence chief for the coun­try’s mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor, Gen­eral omar Tor­ri­jos.

when Tor­ri­jos died in a mys­te­ri­ous plane crash in 1981 — an ‘ac­ci­dent’ for which many blame Nori- ega — he ap­pointed him­self gen­eral and, within two years, was de facto ruler. Call­ing him­self el Man, he’d al­ready earned a rep­u­ta­tion for us­ing bru­tal tac­tics against op­po­nents, a fact he re­in­forced by turn­ing up for po­lit­i­cal speeches bran­dish­ing a ma­chete.

The grisly fate of Hugo spada- fora, an out­spo­ken critic of Nor­iega, showed how far he would go.

In 1985, Dr spadafora was dragged from a bus on the Costa ri­can bor­der by a Nor­iega death squad. His mu­ti­lated, tor­tured and de­cap­i­tated body was later found in a U.s. mail bag. other po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies were dropped from heli­copters.

Nor­iega wanted power, but above all he wanted money. Just as he was forg­ing stronger links with the U.s., he was do­ing the same with Colom­bian drug car­tels. He be­came a key agent for the no­to­ri­ous Medellin Car­tel, dom­i­nated by drug lord Pablo es­co­bar.

Nor­iega bi­og­ra­phers es­ti­mate he earned at least $772 mil­lion from drugs — al­low­ing Colom­bian traf­fick­ers to use Panama as a stopover for co­caine and mar­i­juana ship­ments to the U.s.

amer­i­can nar­cotics agents be­came in­creas­ingly alarmed but wash­ing­ton didn’t want to hear. He was viewed as an as­set.

In 1986 Nor­iega met white House aide Colonel oliver North at a Lon­don ho­tel dur­ing the in­fa­mous Iran-Con­tra scan­dal, the se­cret U.s. op­er­a­tion to fund the rightwing Con­tra rebels in Nicaragua with the pro­ceeds of il­le­gal arms sales to Iran.

The U.s. Congress had banned fund­ing of the Con­tras but Nor­iega of­fered to as­sas­si­nate lead­ers of Nicaragua’s left-wing san­din­ista govern­ment or com­mit acts of sab­o­tage there.

The white House never took him up on these chill­ing of­fers, but it did use Panama as a lis­ten­ing post and a chan­nel for money and weapons for the Con­tras.

Nor­iega, who drank heav­ily and re­lied on stim­u­lants such as am­phet­a­mines, rev­elled in his ter­ri­fy­ing rep­u­ta­tion. He rarely de­nied ac­cu­sa­tions he was a murderer, rapist and tor­turer al­though, com­i­cally, he was sen­si­tive about peo­ple men­tion­ing his bad skin, the re­sult of teenage acne.

In 1989, he put down a mil­i­tary coup at­tempt and al­legedly shot dead its leader him­self in front of wit­nesses.

BY

THeN, how­ever, amer­ica’s tol­er­ance for his be­hav­iour was run­ning out, es­pe­cially as he was boast­ing he had Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.w. Bush ‘ by the co­jones’ over ‘in­tel­li­gence se­crets’.

In De­cem­ber 1989, Bush or­dered 27,000 U.s. troops to go in and de­pose him. In the biggest U.s.mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion since the Viet­nam war, the in­vaders took con­trol. Troops who stormed his fortress home — a span­ish Colonial- style house in Panama City — were as­ton­ished by what they found.

a first- floor room had been turned into a huge ar­moury of ri­fles, pis­tols and ma­chine guns. Nor­iega even had a James Bond­style at­tache case fit­ted with a sub-ma­chine gun, a hole cut for its bar­rel and a trig­ger in the han­dle.

In his of­fice, a bust of Napoleon sat next to his mil­i­tary grad­u­a­tion

photo and the teddy bears. Drinks coast­ers de­picted clas­si­cal Greek erotic scenes, his out tray was full of pornog­ra­phy and on the wall was a pic­ture of the Fuhrer. Four pounds of co­caine was found in a safe and an­other 100lb in his of­fice.

Scep­tics later dis­missed ac­cu­sa­tions of black magic as a bid to dis­credit Nor­iega. But the Cre­ole stock from which he came widely be­lieved in voodoo and he never de­nied the ru­mours.

Troops and re­porters found a di­ary de­tail­ing vis­its by two Brazil­ian witches who would fly in (by plane) to per­form black magic.

Cow tongues with nails driven through them, which, it was claimed, were used in black magic rit­u­als, were also found.

Ad­join­ing Nor­iega’s bed­room was an­other odd touch — a chapel with im­ple­ments for Catholic mass, and a priest’s robes.

In the bath­room of an­other house, of­fi­cials re­ported find­ing a bucket of dried an­i­mal blood and en­trails — voodoo ac­ces­sories.

By then Nor­iega had taken refuge in the Vat­i­can em­bassy and on Christ­mas Day 1989 his bru­tal reign ended on a note of farce when he be­came the first vic­tim of a new brand of U. S. Army psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare.

In Op­er­a­tion Nifty Pack­age, ar­moured cars mounted with giant speak­ers blasted the em­bassy with round-the-clock, hard rock and heavy metal songs. The ti­tles said it all: Nowhere To Run, Wanted Dead Or Alive, No Ali­bis, Pris­oner Of Rock And Roll. Nor­iega, an opera lover, gave him­self up on Jan­uary 3, 1990 and was flown in chains to Florida.

Af­ter be­com­ing the first for­eign ruler to be tried in the U.S., he was jailed for 40 years for drug-traf­fick­ing, money-laun­der­ing and rack­e­teer­ing. He had stayed be­hind bars ever since, be­ing ex­tra­dited to Panama and re­port­edly be­com­ing a born again Chris­tian. His last few years were spent in a wheel­chair.

Nor­iega had three daugh­ters with his late wife Feli­ci­dad, and yes­ter­day, Panama’s pres­i­dent, Juan Car­los Varela, said they ‘de­serve to bury him in peace’. That was an honour he rarely ac­corded his en­e­mies.

Rule of ter­ror: Ruth­less killer Manuel Nor­iega

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