Manuel Noriega

By: Nicole Daniels

Essential Question: To what extent did Manuel Noriega's regime influence United States foreign policy in Central America?

Early Years

Manuel Antonio Noriega was born in Panama City, Panama on February 11, 1934. As a child he was given up for adoption to a school teacher he knew. He had the dream and intentions of being a doctor so he attended the National Institute, which was a well known high school. After finishing schooling there his family did not have enough money to send him to medical school so he took a scholarship at the Chorrios Military Academy in Peru, which he graduated from in 1962 with his degree in engineering. After graduation there he returned to Panama where he joined the National Guard.

Military Career and Increase in Power

Since 1968 Noriega was given some power and had some respect in the military. Colonell Omar Torrijos liked Noriega so he obtained him for the command of the country's western province, Chiriqui. His troops seized radio and telephone stations in the city of David, cutting off communications with Panama City. By 1971 he became involved with U.S. intelligence activities. Also by then he was involved in drug deals. To Torrijos he was known as "his gangster". Torrijos died in 1981 in a plane crash. In the following two year contest for power Noriega emerged as the winner. By late 1983 Noriega was suspected of gun trafficking, money laundering, torture, murder, and selling U.S. informations and technology to Cuba and Eastern European governments.

United States Steps in and The Last and Final Straw

By 1987 the U.S. had caught on to Noriegas acts and the U.S. senate called for his removal of that year. In 1988 the Justice Department filed charges against Noriega in federal court. The Assistant Secretary of the State that year went to Panama to get the president Eric Del Valle to fire Noriega. Instead when Noriega figured it out, he forced Del Valle out and found and named a new president. In 1989 Noriega survived a takeover attempt that was supported by the U.S. troops. George Bush Sr. who was elected in 1989 then took stronger actions. Using the firing on the U.S. soldiers and Noriega stating that the U.S. actions caused a state of war, the United states launched an attack with twenty-four thousand troops on December 20, 1989. Noriega escaped their capture for a few days but when the pressure was put on him he surrendered to the Vatican Embassy in Panama City on January 3, 1990. After going to trial in Miami he as convicted on several crimes including cocaine smuggling and money laundering. He was sentenced to forty years in the Miami Prison and had to pay $44 million to the Panamanian government. In 19999 the French court convicted him and his wife to ten years in jail and a fine of $33 million. Today he is serving twenty more years in a jail in Panama and goes back to court for a hearing based on several killings he did.


Noriega Capture News Footage

Video Analysis

Manuel Noriega accepted a bribe of four million dollars from Columbia's cocaine cartel. The U.S. sent 24,000 troop to Panama to catch Noriega but he got away when they first went to get him. Putting enough pressure on him made him give up after a day and surrendered. Even the people in Panama wanted him to surrender and get out of the country. They chanted "no mercy" and "surrender". A congressman was worried about bringing him back because he believed that we were a country of law not a country of personality. When put on trial Noriega faced 145 years in prison for a number of charges. 23 troops lost their lives trying to capture him and 325 were wounded.

Journal Entry #345

Today they are moving me to the prison in Panama to face my sentence there for all the murders I had done for me when I was in power. I have no remorse for what I did but if I could do anything over I would change how I had it done so that they could not pin it on me. I wish I had not gotten caught so I could still be in power some what and still have everyone afraid of me. Bush sent all the troops to get me when they wanted me out of the way but I ran from them so they could not get me. I still wanted to be free. If I did not turn myself in at that time more of the U.S. troops would have been killed and I would have been killed. I wish they had killed me because by the time I can get out of the prisons I have to go to I will be dead. I wasted my whole life in here and cant change that. If I could have I would have killed my self if I knew i would have been in here for this long. I did not think they would find me guilty on all the charges they did but I can not change that. I can not change the past and there is nothing that can change my future. All I will see for the rest of my life are these metal bars and concrete walls.

Works Cited

"20 years later, Panama conflict gets little notice." Chron. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 1928. <>.

"Manuel Noriega Biography - life, family, story, wife, school, son, information, born, drugs, house, time."Encyclopedia of World Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <>.