Former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega dies aged 83

Manuel Noriega

Panamanian military strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega talks to reporters in Panama City on Nov. 8 1989. AP

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has died at the age of 83 following brain surgery this year.

A convicted drug trafficker and Panama's former military leader, Manuel Noriega, died Monday in Panama City due to failing health, according to reports.

Noriega was put into a medically induced coma in March after suffering a severe brain hemorrhage.

"The death of Manuel A Noriega closes a chapter in our history; his daughters and relatives deserve a funeral in peace", Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela tweeted early Tuesday. He was removed from power by President H.W. Bush, who ordered the military to oust him. Upon return, he joins Panama's military, the National Guard, becoming chief of western province of Chiriqui.

One of his first posts was under Omar Torrijos, who went on to seize power in a 1968 coup and appointed Noriega as head of military intelligence.

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Following Noriega's downfall, the country of Panama experienced widespread changes, including assuming control over the Panama Canal from the U.S.in 1999, vastly expanding the waterway and enjoying a boom in tourism and real estate.

The disgraced Panamanian dictator was closely affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency until he built relationships with drug lords and attempted to build a narcotics empire that trafficked drugs into the USA.

Noriega's promotion to full general of 1983 made him the de facto leader of Panama, which at the time had no control over the Panama Canal Zone, an area of USA control surrounding the canal.

It wasn't long before Noriega's benefactor, the USA, would turn on him, however. After taking refuge in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City, Noriega was forced out of the building by USA forces blaring rock music. He surrendered to U.S. troops in January 1990.

-Dec. 11, 2011: Sent back to Panama and immediately imprisoned.

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Once on friendly terms with the United States because of his country's location on the Panama Canal, Noriega became a USA target as relations deteriorated.

While serving his sentence in Panama he sued Activision Blizzard, makers of the popular Call of Duty videogame series, after one edition featured a mission to capture him.

In February 1988, Noriega was indicted on federal cocaine trafficking and money laundering charges. And though his sentence in the USA was reduced to 15 years, his prison time ultimately was not - for he was also convicted of crimes in France and Panama, where he died at 83, still in custody for his crimes.

Noriega acknowledges supporters after surviving a coup attempt in October 1989.

"Before the altar of my conscience I've come to express myself in the spirit of forgiveness", Noriega said.

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