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MIAMI : U.S.A. vs. Noriega

Manuel A. Noriega, the Panamanian strongman toppled by an American invasion in January, 1990, becomes the first foreign leader ever brought to trial in the United States today when he faces drug-trafficking charges in a Florida court. He could be sentenced for up to 165 years in prison if convicted on all 11 counts against him.

While his defense attorneys have not disclosed their strategy, they are expected to insist that Noriega, who had close ties to the CIA, allowed drugs to cross the Isthmus of Panama only at the request of the U.S. government. American agents, according to this scenario, wanted to follow these drug shipments to their final destination.

Noriega had long been considered a close ally of the United States. But relations soured as he used force to fix a presidential election and was accused also of helping Colombia’s Medellin cartel to transship drugs.


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