Sides Of the Fence
Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of the Central American country of Panama, rose to power through the art of destruction deception and detail. Manuel Noriega was able to profit and flourish as Panama’s new leader because of the Cold War environment. Due to the Cold War, its geographical positioning, and financial liberties, Noriega was able to manipulate all parties involved while making him very wealthy, powerful, a political asset, and finally a threat to the United States National Security.
Manuel Noriega was born in 1934 in Panama City, Panama. Noriega grew up very poor and could not afford any high level of education. Like most who could not afford schooling he attended a military college in Peru. His schooling in Peru would ultimately give him his start to gaining contacts, friends, and most importantly American connections.
To understand Noriega’s rise to power first you must understand the environment in which he did so. After World War II a communist movement began to slowly spread throughout the world. This went against America’s belief in democracy and created a riff between the Soviet Union and The United States creating the Cold War.
What importance does this have to Noriega and Panama? On January 1, 1959 Fidel Castro led a successful coup against the government in Cuba which at the time was controlled by Fulgencio Batista. By Castro taking control of the Cuban government, he placed communism within a close range of America. This was important because it was feared by most Americans that this takeover by Castro would lead a domino effect throughout Central America, and third world countries further extending the arm of Communism and the reach of the Soviet Union.
During the same time Castro took control of Cuba, Noriega was in the Peruvian military school. America fearing that these third world military schools would be a breeding ground for future communist leaders, implanted many agents to keep watch over them. One of these recruitment’s would be Manuel Noriega. America first employed Noriega in these early years to inform them on the schools leftist teachings and slowly helped and inspired him to become one of America’s best assets and later their worst enemy.
After returning home to Panama, Noriega furthered his studies by taking courses in America and also at American bases in Panama. Some of his courses included “military engineering, jungle engineering, and counter insurgency Battle” (Kempe 58). Noriega was also trained in such areas as intelligence, counter-intelligence, and communication.
The irony that America helped to develop Manuel Noriega into a Panamanian Dictator raises questions as to why they did, and what made them shift from friend enemy.
Noriega rose to power in Panama by first becoming a sublieutenant in the National Guard in 1968. Later, Noriega ascended higher into power by being part of a successful coup against then president, Arnulfo Arias who ironically was Noriega’s hero when growing up. After the coup in 1968, and under the power of Omar Torrijos, Noriega became lieutenant colonel and was also appointed Chief of Military Intelligence.
The high status in the field of military intelligence is where his assistance was even more sought after. America still trying to gain information on the Communist movement still employed Noriega to supply information on Castro and other related topics. Noriega’s ability to play both sides of the fence was now beginning to fully develop.
At the same time that he was Chief of intelligence he was smuggling guns to help Salvadoran rebels fight against the government of El Salvador. Even though America was backing the government in El Salvador, Noriega “ had no hesitancy in selling arms to the rebels” (Johnson pg.246).
The situation in Central America in reference to the Cold War was that the Sandanistan...
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