The former Panamanian dictator and convicted drug trafficker, Manuel Noriega who was once one of Central America’s most notorious military strongmen, has died, according to a tweet by Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela. Noriega was 83.

Varela wrote in his Twitter account that “the death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter in our history. His daughters and his relatives deserve to mourn in peace.”


Noriega was a Panamanian politician and military officer. He was military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, when he was removed from power by the United States during the invasion of Panama.

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Noriega had undergone surgery in a Panama City hospital on March 7 to remove a benign brain tumor. He was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering severe brain hemorrhaging during the surgery, CNN reports.

Noriega, once on friendly terms with the United States because of his country’s location on the Panama Canal, became a US target as relations deteriorated. The United States invaded Panama in 1989 and Noriega was convicted of drug charges in 1991. He spent almost 20 years in US prisons before extradition to France and, ultimately, back to Panama.

Noriega during his arrest by US Drug Enforcement Agency agents in 1990 CREDIT: REUTERS

Today the Central American nation has little in common with the bombed-out neighborhoods where Noriega hid during the 1989 invasion, before being famously smoked out of his refuge at the Vatican Embassy by incessant, loud rock music blared by U.S. troops.


Telegraph reports that help came in the unlikely form of glam rock. For Operation Nifty Package – the extraction of Noriega – special operatives set up enormous speakers around the building, blasting out the local US military radio station, SCN.

Noriega, an opera-lover, was stuck listening to Oingo-Boingo. He found his eardrums under attack from heavy metal acts like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and KISS, alongside cringeworthy pop-mongers such as Rick Astley and New Kids on the Block. They only interrupted this onslaught of rock and pop for one day: December 25, when the station instead played back-to-back Christmas hits.

It was “a peculiar attempt to unnerve Noriega through questionable art,” as the historian Douglas G Brinkley writes in From Cold War to New World Order. “Blasting rock music was silly, childish, reproachable… but in some strange, postmodern way, it worked.”

After 10 days, with his ears ringing and a mob gathering outside the gates, the Holy See’s representative, Monsignor Jose Sebastian Laboa, told his guest he had to leave. Noriega agreed. He wrote two letters, one to his wife (“I go now on an adventure”, he told her) and one to the Pope, thanking him for his hospitality. In full military uniform, he walked through the Nunciature’s front gates – and was immediately tackled to the ground by a posse of US soldiers.

But what were the songs that broke his morale? Here (with a few small corrections) is the complete list of 95 musical requests, as printed in US Southern Command’s official supplement to their report on Operation Just Cause:

  • (You’ve Got) Another Thing Coming — Judas Priest
  • 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover — Paul Simon
  • All Over But The Crying — Georgia Satellites
  • All I Want is You — U2
  • Big Shot — Billy Joel
  • Blue Collar Man — Styx
  • Born to Run — Bruce Springsteen
  • Bring Down the Hammer — Georgia Satellites
  • Change — Tears for Fears
  • Cleaning Up The Town — The Bus Boys
  • Crying in the Chapel — Brenda Lee
  • Dancing in the Streets — David Bowie
  • Danger Zone — Kenny Loggins
  • Dead Man’s Party — Oingo Boingo
  • Don’t Look Back — Boston
  • Don’t Fear the Reaper — Blue Oyster Cult
  • Don’t Close Your Eyes — Kix
  • Eat My Shorts — Rick Dees
  • Electric Spanking of War Babies — Funkadelic
  • Feel a Whole Lot Better (When You’re Gone) — Tom Petty
  • Freedom Fighter — White Lion
  • Freedom, No Compromise — Little Steven
  • Ghost Rider — The Outlaws
  • Give It Up — KC and the Sunshine Band
  • Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down — Paul Young
  • Guilty — Bonham
  • Hang ‘Em High — Van Halen
  • Hanging Tough — New Kids on the Block
  • Heavens on Fire — KISS
  • Hello, It’s Me — Todd Rundgren
  • Hello, We’re Here — Tom T Hall
  • Helter Skelter — The Beatles
  • I Fought The Law and the Law Won — Bobby Fuller
  • If I Had a Rocket Launcher — Bruce Cochran
  • In My Time of Dying — Led Zeppelin
  • Iron Man — Black Sabbath
  • It Keeps You Running — Doobie Brothers
  • Judgment Day — Whitesnake
  • Jungle Love — Steve Miller Band
  • Just Like Jesse James — Cher
  • Mayor of Simpleton — XTC
  • Midnight Rider — Allmond Brothers Band
  • Mr Blue — The Fleetwoods
  • Naughty Naughty — Danger Danger
  • Never Gonna Give You Up — Rick Astley
  • Never Tear Us Apart — INXS
  • No Particular Place to Go — Chuck Berry
  • No More Mister Nice Guy — Alice Cooper
  • No Alibis — Eric Clapton
  • Now You’re Messin’ With an SOB — Nazareth
  • Nowhere Man — The Beatles
  • Nowhere to Run — Martha and the Vandelas
  • One Way Ticket — George Thorogood and the Destroyers
  • Panama — Van Halen
  • Paradise City — Guns N’ Roses
  • Paranoid — Black Sabbath
  • Patience — Guns N’ Roses
  • Poor Little Fool — Ricky Nelson
  • Prisoner of the Highway — Ronnie Milsap
  • Prisoners of Rock and Roll — Neil Young
  • Refugee — Tom Petty
  • Renegade — Styx
  • Rock and a Hard Place — The Rolling Stones
  • Run to the Hills — Iron Maiden
  • Run Like Hell — Pink Floyd
  • Screaming for Vengeance — Judas Priest
  • She’s Got a Big Posse — Arabian Prince
  • Shot in the Dark — Ozzy Osbourne
  • Stay Hungry — Twisted Sister
  • Taking It To The Streets — Doobie Brothers
  • The Party’s Over — Journey
  • The Race is On — Sawyer Brown
  • The Pusher — Steppenwolf  
  • The Long Arm of the Law — Warren Zevon
  • The Star Spangled Banner — Jimi Hendrix
  • The Secret of My Success — Night Ranger
  • They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! — Napoleon XIV
  • This Means War — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • Time is on My Side — Rolling Stones
  • Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die — Jethro Tull
  • Voodoo Child — Jimi Hendrix
  • Wait for You — Bonham
  • Waiting for a Friend — Jimi Hendrix
  • Wanted Dead or Alive — Bon Jovi
  • Wanted Man — Molly Hatchet
  • War Pigs — Black Sabbath
  • We Didn’t Start the Fire — Billy Joel
  • We Gotta Get Out of This Place — The Animals
  • Who Will You Run To? — Heart
  • You Send Me — Sam Cook
  • You Shook Me All Night Long — AC/DC
  • You Hurt Me (And I Hate You) — The Eurythmics
  • You Got Lucky — Tom Petty
  • Your Time is Gonna Come — Led Zeppelin
  • Youth Gone Wild — Skid Row


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

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