Manuel Noriega

Military Dictator of Panama


  • Noriega was born on February 11, 1938 in Panama City.
  • He attended Peru's Military School of Chorrios.
  • When he returned to Panama he took courses at the School of the Americas, then located in the U.S. canal zone and run by the U.S. Army.
  • He became a protégé of Captain Omar Torrijos.
  • He was a key facet of the coup d'état that overthrew the administration of President Arnulfo Arias.
  • Noriega as head of intelligence rooted out any dissent; he took his job so seriously that he was soon the most hated man in the country.
  • When Torrijos died in a plane crash in 1981, Noriega was his successor as leader of the Panamanian Army.
  • By 1984, he was the leader of the country, despite another president being elected. He skewed the results in this election once he found out the opposition's candidate was winning by a great margin.
  • He replaced reformist programs with a corrupt and repressive regime and used the military to run the country.
  • Accused by the United States, who used to be an ally of Noriega, of drug trafficking and money laundering. As a result, the U.S. stopped giving military and economic aid in addition to putting sanctions on the country.
  • He was tried in federal grand juries in Miami and Tampa and was indicted for violating drug and racketeering laws. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and finished his term in 2007.
Tyrants and Dictators 1/3 - Manuel Noriega

Dictatorial Qualities of Manuel Noriega (watch from 3:30 to 12:20)

Manuel's dictatorial qualities began at a young age. Before every baseball game he would stand up on a chair and give a speech, then when he was finished everyone would clap and they would start to play the game. He wanted to change the world even at a young age. His original dream in high school was to either become a psychiatrist of the President, which led him to have an interest in left wing politics. While in high school he took socialist lessons in school. He started hanging out with Captain Torrijos and they connected very easily because the both shared the same dreams. His character changed for the worst when he joined the national guard which was very corrupt.

Relentless Man

Intelligence Officer

Military Dictator of Panama

Convicted on drug trafficking charges

Born on February 11, 1938

Became a protégé

Brought down the Administration

Recognized as being clever but unscrupulous

[In charge of] rooting out dissent

Most hated man in the country

Dismantled the reformist programs

[Replaced] them with his own corrupt… regime

Utilized the armed forces to run the country

Activities became more outrageous

[Accused] of drug trafficking and money laundering

Able to survive two subsequent coup attempts

Indicted… on charges of violating drug and racketeering laws

Sentenced… to 40 years in prison

Finished... his term in... 2007 (Manuel Noriega)

Essential Question

In what ways did Noriega's actions affect the whole western hemisphere?