History | May 30, 2017 10:42 am

Manuel Noriega Dies: Looking Back at Fall of Panamanian Dictator

Noriega, who had been ousted by U.S. invasion in '89, is dead at 83.

Manuel Noriega Dead at 83
Ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is shown in this Justice Department mug shot released by the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami. Noriega surrendered to U.S. forces in Panama, and was brought to the United States, where he faces charges of drug trafficking. (Bettmann/Contributor)

Long before the domination of the 24/7 news channel, Manual Noriega ruled the airwaves in the fall of 1989. The networks’ news coverage was fixated for months on the latest developments from Panama and its dictator, Noriega, who had been publicly thumbing his nose at the U.S.

Noriega had ruled his country with an iron fist from 1983 to 1989—and led a double life as both a CIA informant and drug kingpin (in cahoots with Pablo Escobar)—before he was finally ousted from power. He was toppled by a U.S. invasion in December ’89, authorized by then president George H.W. Bush. The once mighty dictator would serve the latter half of his life in prison in the U.S., France, and eventually, Panama.

It was widely reported Tuesday that Noriega had died at age 83. To see just how far the former dictator fell in such a short period of time, the Miami Herald resurfaced an article it published just days after Noriega was taken into custody by U.S. forces in Panama and extradited to Miami.

As the newspaper trumpeted, “The man who so recently fashioned himself as Panama’s ‘Maximum Leader’ now is known as federal prisoner No. 41586.” Standing in front of a U.S. court facing drug trafficking charges, “still wearing his military uniform and his military poise and discipline,” Noriega refused to enter a plea. This was not a man, even facing hundreds of years in prison, who wasn’t going to back down easily.

All of these events took place, of course, under extraordinary circumstances. As the Herald noted, “Never before has a head of state been toppled by U.S. military action, harassed until he surrendered, and then hauled before an American bar of justice.”

And in death, Noriega gets one last barrage of news coverage.

Below, watch an original CBS Evening News report with Dan Rather on the U.S. invasion of Panama.