The Most Feared Man in Panama

Manuel Noriega

Life of Manuel Noriega

Born on February 11, 1938, Manuel studied at Peru's Military School of Chorrios. He also took courses in the U.S. canal zone run by the U.S. army. His cleverness was evident to his teachers, and the CIA, as he worked with U.S. intelligence early in his adult life. He established himself as dictator of Panama after the Torrijos regime ended in a plane crash. He changed the programs of Torrijos and replaced them with his corrupt and repressive regime. His regime became increasingly more brutal with his corruption and drug dealing. He manipulated U.S. policy towards his country while gaining more power. He maintained his brutal power by canceling elections and making his opponents "disappear". An example of this is Hugo Spadafora, a political opponent who was found beheaded. He threatened millions of Americans in Panama for leverage over the U.S. His ruthless regime ended in December 1989, with an American invasion to overthrow this ruthless man.
The Rise and Fall of Manuel Noriega

The Rise and Fall of Manuel Noriega

This video depicts the absolute fear Manuel had over his people of Panama. Unlike most dictators, he had absolutely had no favorable qualities to his people. He ruled with an iron fist and his people lived in fear for their lives everyday. His dictatorial qualities were to bully his people and oppress any opposition that he faced. He was an extremely corrupt leader and posed an imminent threat to the U.S. This prompted the December 1989 invasion to oust Noriega. (
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Letter to Congress

Dear Congress,

As you may know, there is a severe crisis in Panama. Manuel Noriega is leading the country into a world of corruption, drug dealing and communism. The last thing we need is a communist state forming in Latin America. As a global leader, the United States has to step in and overthrow this dangerous man. Noriega has declared a state of war between the U.S. and Panama placing the lives of 35,000 Americans living in Panama in danger. Panama has become a center for drug trafficking, acting as transit point between the U.S. and Europe. He is supplying drugs to the youth of America and needs to be stopped. On top of that, he is violating human rights in Panama. He is responsible for the torture and ill treatment of demonstrators, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. His reign of terror and brutality needs to be brought to an end as soon as possible. Consider the welfare of both Americans in Panama and here in the U.S. Thank you.

-President H. Bush

Essential Question:

How did Manuel Noriega's dictatorial qualities differ from other Latin America dictators and how did they directly effect the United States?