Manuel Noriega, former Panama dictator, dies at 83

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, a one-time US ally who was ousted by an American invasion in 1989, died late on Monday at the age of 83.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela wrote on his Twitter account that the death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter in our history.

Noriega ruled with an iron fist, ordering the deaths of those who opposed him and maintaining a murky, close and conflicted relationship with the US. After his fall, Noriega served a 17-year drug sentence in the US, then was sent to face charges in France. He spent all but the last few months of his final years in a Panamanian prison for murder of political opponents during his 1983-89 regime.

He accused Washington of a conspiracy to keep him behind bars and tied his legal troubles to his refusal to cooperate with a US plan aimed at toppling Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government in the 1980s.

Following Noriega’s ouster, Panama underwent huge changes, seizing the Panama Canal from US control in 1999, vastly expanding the waterway and enjoying a boom in tourism and real estate.

Noriega is survived by his wife Felicidad and daughters Lorena, Thays and Sandra.