Manuel Noriega

Of Panama

Hight: 5-6.5 (170 cm)

Weight: 141 lbs (64kg)

in full Manuel Antonio Noriega Morena (born February 11, 1938, Panama City, Panama), Panamanian military leader, commander of the Panamanian Defense Forces (1983–89), who, for the years of his command, was the actual power behind the civilian president.

Noriega was born into a poor family of Colombian extraction. Educated at one of the top high schools in Panama, he was awarded a scholarship to the Chorrillos Military School in Lima. Upon his return to Panama, he was commissioned a sublieutenant in the National Guard and stationed in Colón, where he rose through the ranks and became acquainted with Captain Omar Torrijos. Noriega participated in the military coup that toppled the government of Arnulfo Arias and paved the way for Torrijos’s rise to power. Noriega was instrumental in defeating a later coup attempt to unseat Torrijos. For his loyalty, Noriega was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was named chief of military intelligence, in which position he established contact with the U.S. intelligence service. His assistance to Richard Nixon’s administration—helping, for example, to obtain the release of two American freighter crews from Havana—was coloured by persistent reports of his involvement in drug trafficking. As the head of the Panamanian intelligence service, Noriega also was known for the tactics of intimidation and harassment that he used against opposition groups and their leaders; by the late 1970s he was considered to be the most feared man in Panama. When Torrijos died in a plane crash in 1981, Noriega vied with other military and civilian leaders to gain the upper hand. In 1983 he succeeded to the command of the National Guard, unified the armed forces into the Panamanian Defense Forces, and promoted himself to the rank of general.

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