Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who was finally ousted by a US invasion in 1989, has been released from prison in order to have a brain tumour removed.
Noriega, who was nicknamed Old Pineapple Face because of his pock-marked complexion, ruled Panama between 1983 and 1989 but was deposed by President George H W Bush.
The Reagan and Bush administrations had supported General Noriega, as a bastion against communism, for years but finally ran out of patience with him after he was exposed as being behind the smuggling of massive consignments of drugs to the US and money laundering in Panama.
Noriega’s brutal rule included the torture and murder of any political dissidents. In 1985 Hugo Spadafora, a prominent opponent, was seized by one of Noriega’s death squads. His decapitated body was found, showing signs of extreme torture, wrapped in a US mail bag.
When US troops invaded in December 1989 Noriega, who was played by Bob Hoskins in the 2000 film God’s Favourite, famously sought sanctuary in the Vatican mission and only surrendered when the Americans played loud rock music for days on end.
Noriega was extradited to the US and spent nearly 20 years in prison in Florida after being convicted on drug trafficking charges.
He was then sent back to Panama, via France, and has spent the last six years in El Renacer prison near Panama City, for crimes including murder committed under his regime.
Noriega left the prison yesterday under heavy police guard and was taken to his daughter’s apartment in a wealthy suburb of the capital.
He will undergo surgery on February 15 and has been told he must undergo an assessment on April 28.
His lawyer, Ezra Angel, said he may be allowed more time to recover or be sent back to serve the rest of his 60-year prison sentence on charges ranging from murder to environmental crimes.
In 2014 Noriega reportedly sued the makers of the computer game Call Of Duty after they named a treacherous character Manuel Noriega and also referred to him as Old Pineapple Face.
29 January 2017