Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is pictured in a 1988 photo. The onetime U.S. ally, who was ousted by an American invasion in 1989, died late Monday at age 83. (CNS photo/Gary Hershorn, Reuters)
PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- With a tweet, the president of Panama announced the May 29 death of Manuel Noriega, a former U.S. ally who later became an enemy and dictator of the Central American nation. Noriega was 83.
Noriega's death closes "a chapter of our history," tweeted President Juan Carlos Varela May 30, adding that "his daughters and family members deserve a funeral in peace."
Noriega ruled the country from 1983 until 1989, when the U.S. invaded Panama. U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered military action in response to worries about possible disruption of shipping channels along the strategic Panama Canal and rising tensions with Noriega, who had been indicted in 1988 in the U.S. on charges of money laundering and drug smuggling.
Before his indictment, Noriega had long been suspected of drug smuggling, despite being a close friend of the United States and having worked closely with the CIA on spying efforts aimed at keeping politically left-leaning movements at bay in Central America.
When Bush ordered more than 20,000 troops to oust Noriega Dec. 20, 1989, the invasion was met with outcry by many in Latin America, who denounced the action as another example of the U.S. interfering with the region's affairs.