Manuel Noriega

By Jeff Lynn

Essential Question

Who was more responsible for the downfall of Manuel Noriega: The United States or Manuel Noriega?
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Manuel Noriega was born on February 11, 1934 in Panama City. He attended military school in Lima, Peru where he became a careers soldier. While working his ways through the ranks, Noriega gained valuable support from Omar Torrijos who was the commander of the Panama National Guard. Torrijos appointed Noriega chief of military intelligence which ultimately enabled Noriega to become the dictator of Panama.
Once in power, Manuel rigged the 1984 elections to maintain his leader position. From 1984-1989, Manuel Noriega smuggled drugs from Panama into the United States. An estimated 1.4 million pounds of Marijuana as well as two tons of cocaine was smuggled under the leadership of Noriega. Manuel's antics caused the United States to become heavily involved in Panama as U.S's concern for communism transitioned to drug control. Manuel was charged by the United States on counts of drug trafficking, murder, election fraud, espionage (spying), and money laundering. At the end of Noriega's rule, Nicolas Barletta, Noriega's hand picked candidate, won the presidential elections. Barletta was estimated to have lost by nearly 75%, but through the corruption of Manuel, he was able to rise to power. Barletta served as a 'puppet president' for Manuel.
Manuel Noriega had close ties with the U.S's CIA and served as a valuable asset during the 80's. Noriega served as an intermediary during the Castro and Bush tension. Noriega had obtained roughly 300,00 dollars from the United States and gained valuable top-secret documents which he traded to other countries. While Noriega served as a U.S CIA, he was a double agent with the Cuban government. He frequently traded documents back and fourth. The United States wanted to arrest Manuel because they feared Manuel would share the secrets that he had learned during his stay with the CIA. On top of the Manuel constantly selling documents, the U.S government had to take action because Noriega being an infamous drug trafficker as well as a CIA agent for the United States was not tolerated by the the people of the U.S.
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Noriega propaganda poster

The picture depicts Manuel Noriega drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco while wearing shoes with the panama flag on the bottom of his footwear. Manuel Noriega is slouched against a tombstone with the label, "Heros Democraticos" which translates to democratic heros. The tobacco and alcohol symbolizes Manuel's drug trafficking, and the 'beer belly' symbolizes that he trafficks a large quantity of drugs as the character in the portrait drinks a lot of alcohol. The shoes symbolize Manuel's control over the country. Manuel's dictatorship and his ultimate control over the people are described as walking with Panama under his feet.

Fun Fact!

Manuel constructed a cocaine processing plant to house drug criminals of the United States.

Manuel's letter to Nicolas Barletta

Dear Mr. Barletta,

As you might have expected, I have chosen you as my predecessor and I expect you to carry my legacy. In these coming elections of 89', Guillermo Endara is heavily favored over you to win the vote. I will not have my legacy tarnished at the feet of Endara; I will rig the elections in your favor. As the new leader of Panama, you must continue to smuggle drugs into the U.S as well as develop cocaine processing plants. The economy of Panama relies on the drug industry. Aside from the drugs, I will hand to you documents I've gathered from my time in the CIA. The documents are desired by many countries and will serve as great money opportunities, power advantage, and allies. Do not give in to the United States, and do not let political leaders within Panama threaten your reign. Through my six year rule I have caused tens of political leaders to disappear because their constant attempts to overthrow me would not be tolerated; you must do the same. Rule with an iron fist, Carlos. Your reign is a product of my legacy which means you carry double the responsibility. Above all else, you will do as I command and follow my orders. Yes, you will be the official leader, but I will be truly continue to be in charge.

Do not disappoint,

Manuel Noriega


The United States army invaded Panama in December 20th, 1989 with 9,000 troops. The U.S army disbanded the Panama government and took Manuel Noriega back to the U.S as well as appointed Endara, man who rightfully should have won the elections, as the president of Panama. In January 3rd, 1989 Manuel was arrested by the DEA (Drug enforcement Agency). In 1992, Manuel was sentenced to 40 years in prison on accounts of drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering (illegal organized business activity).