Crossover Week: Kingpins (Manuel Noriega Pt. 1)


Hi Listeners due to the unfortunate spread of Cova Nineteen Parkhouse has decided to temporarily halt recording this week. Although it pains us to make this decision we feel that. It is a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of our hosts and staff. In the meantime I can't wait for you to dive into the episodes. You're about to hear from another fantastic show. I host called kingpins like a dictator. A kingpins thirst for power is an unstoppable force. One that will destroy anyone who gets in its way. Well the certainly rings true. For Manuel Noriega the Panamanian politician. Who ran one of the most successful drug and gun trafficking rings in the world in the nineteen seventies and eighties? If you enjoy these episodes and want to hear. More Tales of history's most powerful criminals. Follow the park casts series kingpins on spotify new episodes premiere every Friday. Listen free on spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Do the graphic nature of this kingpins crimes listener discretion is advised. This episode includes discussions of torture rape and murder that some people may find offensive. We advise extreme caution for children under thirteen. The scalpel cut through Hugo spotter. Foras thighs like a knife through butter. His Torso look like a strip mine is broken. Ribs ached under a thin veil of Bruce Skin. It was a miracle he was still conscious or a curse. Spot of four appeared up at the soldiers who had brought him here on their shoulders he could see patches for the Panamanian Defense Forces the personal army of his sworn enemy the shadow president Manuel Noriega. A soldier picked up a butcher knife and sliced spot afforest throat. He bled out slowly just as the men had been instructed. Finally Noriega soldiers cut his head off. They carve the number of their military unit into his torso wrapped it in a US. Postal bag and drove it into Costa Rica. It was a message. Anyone who disagreed with Noriega was not welcome in Panama and their righteous friends in the US wouldn't come to their assistance. Noriega Guzman call to tell him. The deed was done. The dictator slept soundly that night. Safe under the blind eye of the American government that backed him. Hi I'm how will heart and I'm Kate Leonard? And this is kingpins on the podcast network. Every Friday we journey inside the ranks of Organized Crime Rings From Street gangs to mafiosos to understand how a kingpin or Queen Pin Rises to the top of the underworld and why they fall as we follow lives of infamous crime. Bosses will explore how money and power change them and how it changed the community around them. This is our first episode on dictator. Manuel Antonio Noriega a tyrant who ran one of the most successful crime rings and Secret Intelligence monopolies in the world in the nineteen seventies and eighties. This week we'll be exploring his rise from CIA informant to the de facto leader of Panama. Next week we'll look at the events that toppled him from his tower bringing the entire bloody empire crashing down. You can listen to all of our cash shows on apple podcasts. Spotify stitcher Google play. Cast box or your favorite podcast directory. If you enjoy the show one of the best ways to help us is to leave a five star review wherever you listen to podcasts clearcut black and white villains are a dime a dozen but the true monsters are the men and women who slither between the cracks there legitimate facades disguising the evil within from his place in the shadows Panamanian dictator. Manuel Noriega could do all manner of things. He could informed the CIA on his drug trafficking enemies while hushing up his own drug operation entirely he could steal guns on the CIA's orders. Then sell them to. Groups bent on genocide in nearby Nicaragua. He could murder his political opponents with snap of his fingers. Noriega slithered his way into bed with American intelligence becoming so valuable that the US stood by as he built his own empire of crime and corruption. He became one of the most controversial military dictators in the world. A master manipulator who convinced every world power that he was working solely for them while wantonly selling their secrets to the highest bidder. Manuel Noriega remains one of the most controversial figures in Latin American history. A man who bit the hand that fed him causing radical unrest and the near total collapse of democracy in Panama. He ruled an empire so powerful that it would take a literal invasion to stop him. It was nineteen eighty. Manuel Antonio Noriega called Tony for short was in fine spirits. As he headed to the airport he just been given the biggest assignments of his career on the orders of his boss. Panama's dictator Omar Torrijos. Tony and his fellow National Guard leader. Colonel Ruben Perez. Were heading to Cuba to deal with Fidel Castro. This mission was an unusual one from nineteen seventy two to nineteen eighty. Panama had been supplying weapons to Nicaragua's Revolutionary Sandinista Party. Thanks to Torrijos support and a bit of backing from the Cubans. The Sandinistas had taken control of Nicaragua. But now Cuba's President Fidel Castro was taking all the credit for the victory weakening Panama's power and influence in Nicaragua. Torrijos couldn't let that stand. Someone would have to go to Cuba to deal with Fidel Castro and that somebody would be his loyal intelligence. Chief Tony Noriega Tony. Strength had always lied and backdoor politics working in the shadows and developing friendships in places. His more arrogant peers ignored. This was the perfect opportunity to put his unique skills to use in Cuba. Tony and Colonel Parade. Ace took staunchly different approaches to their task parade as tried to bully Fidel Castro into backing down in Nicaragua. Tony on the other hand turned his attention to the attending intelligence officers from Cuba. The Soviet Union and the United States while Perez tried and failed to scare Castro into submission. Tony took the other officers out for drinks and whoring. It was never the wrong time to make friends in high places when parade. Ace was done. Tony swooped into Castro's office. He charmed the dictator chatting quietly about nothing in particular. He didn't even broach the topic of Nicaragua. No he was there to build a relationship. That would outlast. His bosses careers. Their party left Cuba without resolving the Nicaragua problem. But in the meantime Tony had convinced everyone. The Cubans the Soviets the Americans and Castro himself that have all the powerful men in Panama. He was the most levelheaded and reliable. Reliability should have been Manuel Antonio Noriega's middle name no matter which man army or government he was working for he was interested in one thing and one thing only power one might expect. The Noriega was born into the world of high powered deals in white collar crime. But in fact Noriega's rise was far more outstanding than that. Tony Noriega was born on February eleventh. Nineteen thirty four. The product of an illicit affair between an alcoholic accountant and his mixed race made. Tony was mystique Zo by birth. Meaning a mix of Indian black and Spanish. This immediately identified him as a second class citizen in Panama. Below the Caucasian Americans in the US owned canal zone and the lighter skinned Spanish citizens. Panama was a country ruled by connections. Hard workers were a dime a dozen and in the end. Making something of yourself was a matter of who you knew. In what country club you belong to as the bastard son of a poor maiden a father he'd never met. Tony lucked into exactly zero opportunities by birth. At the age of five Tony's mother gave him up to a schoolteacher named Louisa. Says Louisa doted on the boy and she made sure that he was always as clean and well dressed as the wealthiest students at school but his dark coloring did him no favours as a child and neither did his severe acne which left his face pockmarked by scars this earned him the cruel. Schoolyard nickname pineapple. Face A moniker. That would follow him for the rest of his life. Tell me was by an extreme shyness and unusual seriousness that forced him even further onto the fringes. Well he made some close friends. He was never much of a talker. He mostly just listened however he was a great student. As a result of his high grades. Tony was accepted the institute. Don't ask you know the Premier High School in Panama. When he was thirteen years old. It was there that he met his half brother. Luis Carlos Noriega. He never would have made the connection. If one of his friends hadn't pointed out that Louise's father looked exactly like an older version of Tony. Whatever thirteen year old Tony had been hoping for when he met his father for the first time he was sorely disappointed. Tony's father never particularly warm to him. Neither did his half siblings or his father's wife. The only exception was Luis Carlos. He was a flamboyant and openly gay young man in a deeply conservative Catholic country Lewis immediately bonded with Tony. A fellow black sheep who'd been forced to the edges of society by traits that were beyond his control shutout from conventional society. The boys had to find their own way to success. The encouraged each other to think beyond the limits of morality to get what they wanted without. Louise there may never have been a dictator Noriega in the first place. Louis Swiss Toni's first introduction to politics and the brand of politics. He practiced was far from idealistic in. Nineteen forty nine Lewis. Rigg Tony's election to the National Congress of students the Congress was technically a type of Model U N for high schoolers with. They took their roles very seriously. The students involve themselves in national politics with the fervor enforce of a full-fledged political party that year Lewis as head of the National Congress of students managed to uncover a secret treaty between the Panamanian government and the United States the treaty would basically allow the United States full authority over the canal and by Association Panama Almost indefinitely. Still only a high schooler. Lewis led the fight against the ratification of the treaty and took Tony along to the protests the student organization actually succeeded in preventing the treaty from being signed and Luiz. Carlos became a bit of a folk hero. Toni dove all in with his brothers political activism transforming through his high school career from bullied wallflower into extroverted leader. Surprisingly during this time Noriega lived and breathed a belief in socialism. He supported dismantling the military which he and his friends believed was too powerful and corrupt. The future military dictator was described by higher. Up says the most anti military person they had ever met. Tony's years after graduation however would be the undoing of his idealistic beliefs from nineteen fifty. Three to nineteen fifty-eight Tony found himself adrift. With no prospects of a career. Without family connections. There was no college enrollment or nepotistic job waiting for him. Once he taken off his graduation gown he'd had dreams of becoming a psychiatrist but medical school in Panama was reserved for the wealthy and well-connected he tried to get a scholarship but those were reserved for the sons and daughters of Americans who worked on the Panama Canal. Tony Manage to get a job as a laboratory technician. But he discovered that there to the other workers got ahead through family connections to add insult to injury because of his mosquito heritage and blemished face relationships were hard for him to come by outside of work overtime. His frustration blossomed into embittered resentment toward the upper classes with no one else to turn to. He began battering Luis Carlos for help. Louis hatched brilliant plan. Since his own graduation he had been working for. Panama's Foreign Minister Alino Boyd. Louise asked boy to write a letter of recommendation for his younger brother. With that letter Tony could apply for scholarships and admittance to the Torrijos military school the training ground for military leaders throughout Central and South America. If Tony could make it there he could write his ticket anywhere with boys recommendation. Letter in hand. Tony began his studies at the Torrijos Military School in Nineteen Fifty Eight at the age of twenty four. The puzzle pieces of Tony's life all began to fall into place after that on January first. Nineteen fifty nine. Fidel Castro wrested control of Cuba turning it into a communist stronghold. Us intelligence officers feared that his first order of business would be outsourcing communism to the United States the US government began scrambling for Intel particularly from military academies across Central and South America where tomorrow's revolutionaries were training. It wasn't long before Luis Carlos through his job at the Foreign Minister's office suggested Tony to the CIA. As a paid informant. It was an offer that would change the course of history coming up. We'll explore how Tony Excelled as a C. I A. Informant. And how he leveraged that position into untold and unchecked power now back to the story in nineteen fifty eight and well. Tonio Noriega began studying at the Torrijos military school by the next year. He was recruited to spy on his classmates as a paid informant for the CIA. Tony had been listening at the edges of society since childhood. Why not get paid for doing what he was already doing? Walling classes Tony would take two sets of notes notes. On the lectures and notes about his classmates. He went to rallies speeches parties and recreational club meetings then went back to his room and wrote down verbatim conversations. He gave his notebooks to Luiz Carlos. Who passed them on to his handlers at the CIA his invisibility sharp memory and attention to detail. Meet him the perfect informant. Most importantly he was reliable. The most reliable recruit the CIA had in the region he was sending in not just snippets but volumes of useful information like clockwork. With his informants. Pay For the first time in his life Tony could afford small luxuries. His military uniform decorated with gold buttons. He polished every day made him equal. In appearance. To the rest of the wealthy Peru's military academy was synonymous with wealth and prestige and his uniform. Shielded him from the mistreatment indigenous and misdeeds though citizens experienced throughout Latin America but he still witnessed the racism constantly sometimes. It was as simple as a mosquito person. Being refused service at a restaurant at other times it was police brutality or even forced imprisonment. And even though Noriega was excelling in his studies other Panamanian cadets would often pull him aside to encourage him away from a military career they told him he was simply too low class by Panamanian standards to ever become an officer or in less polite words. He was too dark skinned to ever amount much. Tony's hatred of the upper classes only kept building for the most part. He hid it well but he can only take so much humiliation before he finally snapped in the summer of nineteen sixty the academy. Excuse the cadets for a few weeks vacation most of the wealthy students zipped back to their families houses across the continent twenty six year old. Tony didn't have that luxury. So instead he and two of his friends headed out for a night on the town in Lima. The Bar was notorious for its cheap full pours and beautiful women. Tony and his friends arrived in their handsome white uniforms. Flaunting their military prestige. One of Tony's friends pointed out a dark-haired sex worker waiting across the bar the young men agreed to share her services over the course of the night as the first of the three cadets took his turn Tony as other friend drank and danced. Tony noticed the attention. They garnered in uniform. He'd never commanded respect like this before he was no longer just a small dark skinned young man with a pockmarked face he was a cadet after his second friend returned. Tony stood up to take his turn with the woman but as he approached he could tell. She lost some of her enthusiasm. She told him her price had doubled. Tony Look back at his friends watching him from their table. Smirks on their faces. He could barely afforded her original price and she obviously knew it but it was about more than the price he could see in her face that he repelled her. If he didn't have sex with this woman he would lose all his credibility and masculinity at the academy by Dawn. The cadets gossiped like schoolgirls with a quick tug on her elbow the yanked the woman into an Empty Room. He later bragged that he could still remember how his fists smashed into her nose as he sent her crashing to the floor before she could call out for help he beat her unconscious raped her and left her in the room to die. She was a punching bag for the repressed anger. Tony had felt his entire life. A scapegoat as invisible to society as he was when news reached. Us intelligence that one of their best informants had raped and nearly beaten a prostitute to death. The response was deafening in that. There wasn't one Noriega was simply too valuable. Not to protect he stayed on as payroll and the incident passed into obscurity after graduating from the Torrijos military school in Nineteen Sixty two. Tony moved back to Panama but he found out his prestigious training could only take him so far. Without family connections he was still shut out of an actual military job. The Panamanian military was more than a combat force. They were a political body that controlled most of the government. Panama had a civilian president and a government that were elected by the people but the true power rested with the National Guard. Panama's military. The National Guard was more of a militia of about five thousand men but they had the manpower and legal authority to oversee public services push legislation and run most of the government's agencies. They more or less ruled the country as a martial state often rigging elections to keep the civilian officials in their favor. If Tony hoped to get anywhere he would have to break his way into the elite boys club. That was the National Guard for someone of his background. That wasn't going to be easy. However he had been so successful as an informant that the Americans offered him a lucrative job in the canal zone the Panama Canal and the territory surrounding it had been under. Us controls since one thousand nine. Oh three the canal zone was described as a replica of small town. America recreated in the jungle governed under Jim Crow laws between fifty and one hundred thousand people live there in the sixties both American and Panamanian. Tony would survey roads while collecting Intel about the Panamanians that worked beside him. It was a cushy gig almost impossible for a Panamanian citizen toget- Tony was about to turn twenty eight and he finally felt like he was making progress. He had prestige money to burn and he could women way out of his league but his time in canal zone wouldn't last long. There were bigger and brighter things on the horizon in February of nineteen sixty two. Tony took his woman of the week to a local carnival festival. She was pretty enough to boost his ego and pretty enough to catch the attention of major Omar Torrijos Torrijos was in his early thirties. Charismatic devilishly handsome. And the commander of the country's second largest National Guard Garrison Torrijos was so taken with Tony's date. He barely noticed quiet. Little man with the pineapple face standing beside her that is until he spoke up and mentioned his impressive job in the canal zone before. Long Tony Torrijos were hours. Deep into a political discussion about the future of Panama. The Sun went down the crowd dwindled. And the major realized the bright young man could be a valuable asset by the end of the night. Torrijos Tony to give up his American job and come to work for him. Torrijos ran one of the largest military garrisons in the country in his time however he was a pimp. Tony was tasked with collecting money from his network of sex workers. If he did well Torrijos promise to transition him into work for the military. From the moment he started. Tony showed cleverness. In strategy that other men lacked he worked long hours even nights and weekends to prove to his new boss just how valuable he could be. It worked by September nineteen sixty two. Torrijos secured him a position as a second lieutenant in the National Guard. And that's when the real work began because he was still working as an informant. Tony seem to know everything. About the opposition parties competing against Torrijos. He was also starting to accumulate dirt on all the men. Torrijos was trying to impress both in Panama and in the United States. He was a wellspring of Information. That never ran dry but only a few months into his new job. Tony's uncontrollable anger and violence almost cost him everything in late nineteen sixty two. He once again raped and beat a sex worker. This time in a police car with witnesses watching many Ontario hoses team urged him to fire. Tony if the scandal got out it could ruin Torrijos by association but Torrijos side another way. If he saved Tony from trouble now it would guarantee his loyalty. Moving forward. Antonis Valuable Intel might be worth risking the scandal so using his military and personal connections. Torrijos made the rape allegation. Go away he also promoted Tony to the position of transit department chief. The job wasn't prestigious but twenty eight year old. Tony Noriega would milk it for all. It was worth. He was now in charge of all buses. Taxis and chauffeurs in Cherokee the province along Panama's border with Costa Rica. It was a hotbed of her smuggling as well as revolutionary activity the Panamanian government wanted is on the anti military opposition party members gathering in the region while the CIA tapped tim for Intel about the communist groups. It was the perfect place to be and Tony made the most of it. He began recording every single conversation. That took place in vehicles and public spaces in the region. He recorded everyone from the butchers and priests to local officials and businessmen. This would become his favorite hobby. He began amassing files on every single person. Who stepped foot in the province including citizens dignitaries and his own bosses? It wasn't uncommon to catch glimpses of Noriega wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap as he sat in the dark corner of a nightclub listening close to the tables around him. In just a few short years he had a list of individuals he could bribe blackmail or threaten into becoming his informants creating his own network of eyes and ears so he no longer had to information for himself. If he didn't want to Tony's informant pay skyrocketed. He began making two and a half. Times is transit chief salary each month he married a fair skinned Spanish. Woman named FELICIA DODD marrying up by the standards of the country's racial hierarchy. He also now had the attention of Panama's higher ups. His new position came in Handy as Torrijos climbed his way up. Panama's military ladder. Even though the real power in Panama belonged to the military. The military's budget authority was decided by the elected civilian government as the nineteen sixty. Four election drew closer. It looked like anti military candidates. We're going to win the popular vote. Thirty year old transit department chief. Tony Noriega had a solution on election day. He bribed or threatened every chauffeur and taxi in Shuki to take meandering alternate routes to the polling stations preventing opposition party supporters from reaching the polls on time in retaliation. Opposition leaders blew up. An electrical station Noriega then bribed drivers to pick the culprits up and drive them to jail whereas men were waiting to interrogate them. Noriega was testing. Just how much he could get away with. He sat and watched as his men tied to re hosts enemies to the prison wall and raped them with coke. Bottles and splintered broom handles. He didn't even hide his face. Word got out about the vicious Sasol's and for the first time in his career. Noriega was forced to disappear for a few weeks while the public uproar died down but he returned to work shortly after with Theresa's blessing and the CIA as blessing. Noriega's handlers had another assignment for him they targeted a young. Panamanian schoolteacher who had recently returned from Moscow with instructions to spread communism among the banana farmers. They knew she was staying in a motel. Insure Iki province in the room had already been bugged with surveillance equipment and listening devices. All Noriega had to do was listen from the room next. Door Noriega waited impatiently for hours. His room clouding with cigarette smoke. The headphones were getting heavy on his ears. And then finally. He heard the schoolteacher enter. Someone was with her laughter than the throws of passion. As Noriega listened a sly smile spread across his face. He knew the man in the room. He'd met him many times before shaking his hand and even eaten with his family. It was Moses Torrijos. His boss's brother not only was noises already married but his mistress was a communist. If word got out in Panama it would destroy Omar Torrijos his career. This was the Intel of the century. He was so thrilled he even invited an old friend. From the military school to the motel. To listen in Noriega respected Torrijos. He was his mentor. Almost a father figure but the day might come when a tape like this could save him from trouble. Tony Noriega was now untouchable. After the couple left Noriega let himself into the teacher's room and found a love letter she'd written to Moses he delicately tucked it away in his private files for safekeeping and went home to his wife by nineteen sixty seven. Thirty-three-year-old Noriega was a feared figure in Panamanian backrooms everywhere rebel groups retreated into back rooms of their own to avoid his prying eyes and ears and with less intelligence coming in. Tony found himself with an enormous amount of free. Time Noriega turned to his CIA contacts. Who offered him more advanced intelligent strategies in nineteen sixty seven alone? He took American courses on counterintelligence Psychological Warfare Military Intelligence Jungle. Warfare cartography engineering and parachute training. He then turned to the Israelis and Taiwanese for police investigation training. He learned how to twist media articles to destroy reputations and how to use misinformation to confuse protesters and as he had always done he listened in on other students conversations which provided a crash course on political happenings around the globe when he came back from his year long educational tour he was given a task that would put all his new training to good. Use Helping Torrijos steal the dictatorship of Panama when we come back we'll explore Noriega's meteoric assent as the Panamanian dictators. Right hand man now back to the story in nineteen sixty seven Manuel. Antonio Noriega was an unstoppable force he had eyes and ears on every political happening in the country the US had trained him in all manner of counter intelligence and he had lucked into a key piece of Intel about his bosses family that all but ensured he would have a job for years to come. There was just one thing that could get in the way of his success in nineteen sixty eight beloved populist and anti military leader our new foe. Arias won the presidential election in a landslide. Victory Arias First Order of business would be to disrupt the National Guards monopoly. Power Torrijos Noriega had to act. They turn to the National Guards Major Martinez for help. Martinez worked the troops from day to day and the forces would go to war in an instant if he asked Martinez and Noriega devised a plan to get rid of Arias. A Strategy Noriega head learned from his studies in America. They found out that Arias and his wife were at the cinema. For the evening they sent a messenger to warn Arias. The National Guard soldiers were planning to surround the cinema and execute him. Of course they weren't actually going to do that. But Noriega new. The message alone would scare Arias into fleeing which is exactly what he did. Arias was on a flight to Miami before the film was even halfway over without a president there to stop him. Omar Torrijos declared himself Commandante of Panama. The country's next military dictator. He appointed his own puppet. President to govern in Aria says absence for his success Noriega became deputy of the National Guards General Staff and assumed command of the Second Infantry Company. No one in the country had ever ascended the military ranks so quickly. Noriega didn't have time to revel in his new position with guerrilla fighters rallying to reinstate Arias. There was work to be done. He used wartime torture methods to crack down on the rebel fighters he spread rumors and misinformation through the countryside to stave off revolt and then he helped. Torrijos Major Martinez. The man who had helped him become dictator in the first place. Noriega lured Martinez Torrijos. His office then bound the major with green military tastes and put him on a plane to Miami. Always playing the Double Game Noriega phoned up his CIA handlers to tell them Martinez was on his way in exchange for ousting. Martinez Noriega assumed command of the fifth military zone. Taking Command of the border with Costa Rica from this position Noriega could rest control all the smuggling operations near the border taking a cut off the top in exchange for the national guards protection drugs and guns flowed like water from country to country supervised and directed by Noriega's garrison of the National Guard. But it wasn't long before Torrijos. Scheming caught up with him. The Americans had been shocked by the coup against Arias and even more surprised to see Major Martinez show up duct taped on their doorstep. Noriega hadn't told them the coup was going to happen the CIA knew their informant maintained his authority and access by humoring Torrijos. His every whim so they didn't blame him but they were furious. At Torrijos American intelligence agents had hoped Arias would keep us Panama relations friendly negotiations about whether the US would retain control of the canal zone had been going on for years. Arias wasn't exactly pro American. But he had wanted to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict but Torrijos through it all into chaos with Arias is forced removal from office. Peaceful negotiations were crippled and civil unrest sword while Torrijos was on vacation in Mexico in December nineteen. Sixty-nine US officials reached out to American friendly. National Guardsmen stationed across Panama and instructed them to stage a coup. The first call they made was to. Tony Noriega it was two. Am on December fifteenth. One thousand nine hundred sixty nine. Tony Noriega was woken from a deep sleep to find himself between a rock and a firing squad. The soldier on the other end of the line made it clear that Torrijos his time was up. That was non-negotiable. He only had one question for Noriega. Would he help oust the man who had mentored him throughout his career or would he fight back and suffer the same? Fate as Torrijos Noriega told the soldier that he would ask his own troops who they cited with buying himself time to scheme. He immediately reached out to his brother. Luis Carlos who was still working in the civilian government. Despite Noriega extensive intelligence reach he had no way of knowing just how many national guard soldiers were working for the Americans. He and Louise did know from experience. That whichever side. The Americans bag stood the greatest chance of winning. The safest path forward was to play. Both sides Noriega called the soldier back. He agreed to help stage. A coup against Torrijos. So long as Luis Carlos was given the powerful position of Minister of Government. This would be his protection against total obliteration. If Torrijos was dethroned as soon as he hung up he got in contact with Torito's who is still vacationing in Mexico. Torrijos needed to return to Panama immediately and regain control before it was too late. The only question was how with the rebels watching the roads into the capital. There was only a slim chance for Torrijos to make it back into Panama City without being assassinated or taken hostage. What if he didn't make it back within the next day the rebels would take control and tell the world that Torrijos was gone? Tony could only help so much without blowing his cover. Everything he did for the next twenty four hours would have to fly under the radar if there was any hope of success. Tony Sanneh pilot pickup Torrijos and Mexico. Meanwhile he recruited trusted men in his National Guard unit to drive their trucks quietly into the jungle to an isolated airfield where Torrijos would be landing. He reached out to his network of informants. Who kept him up to date on the minute to minute. Actions as the troops began to amass in the capital. If even one soldier involved in the coup learned that Noriega was helping Torrijos his career would be over if he was lucky. They'd ship him and his family to the states. If he was unlucky they cut off his testicles and hang him from a telephone pole in Panama City as a warning to traders Noriega's camouflaged military trucks were tucked into the forest out of sight on the off chance those involved in the coup were watching this airstrip to then they heard it. Noriega called out on the radio waited for the pilots code word. Sure enough. He had to Rio's onboard as Torrijos set out in the convoy toward Panama. City Noriega State. Back waiting to see if his mentor would retake the capital or die. Trying sure enough. Torrijos return to Panama City with even more public support than when he'd left it the simple fact that he'd return to peacefully take back his country from a military coup earned him the people's respect. The public quickly forgot that he'd come to power through his own coup in the first place. Tony Noriega celebrated in private. He had played both sides. And one again Torrijos. Now owed Noriega everything. He promoted him to lieutenant colonel and put him in charge of the country's military intelligence agency. The G. to his first task was to court as many foreign powers as possible starting with the Soviet Union Cuba and Israel so Panama would no longer be dependent on the Americans for support. Unbeknownst to Torrijos Noriega already had contacts and each of those countries from his informant. Work Noriega also led an investigation to expose the Americans role in the coup to convince the people. They could no longer play. America's puppet despite all the anti-american sentiment. He was stirring up. He was still passing intelligence on his enemies. The CIA and FBI Torrijos enjoyed extreme popularity as military dictator behind his handpicked. Puppet President but popularity doesn't always translate into effective leadership for host was lazy and he quickly grew. Bored of the MUNDANITY is overrunning a country. He left the actual operations of government. To Noriega and Noriega was a brutal master under his watch. Panama became a haven for corruption. Torrijos Noriega turned the country into a banking empire that rivaled Switzerland promising all investors absolute secrecy lax tax laws and easy avenues for money laundering. The country went from having banks to over a hundred and just under three years most of them dealing exclusively in dirty money. Of course Noriega and Torrijos gladly accepted. Cut off the top. Us intelligence knew about everything. They turned a blind eye. As long as Noriega handed over all his supposedly secret records un-american shareholders and Shell corporations meanwhile Nixon's war on drugs had US intelligence salivating for Intel about South American Cartels Noriega happily handed over information about rival cartels while neglecting to mention the drug smuggling empire he'd taken over at the with Costa Rica. The US was too preoccupied with drugs. To even bother looking into the millions of dollars of guns. That Noriega was selling to rebel groups in Nicaragua by nineteen seventy six forty two year. Old Noriega was Panama's highest ranking liaison both openly and covertly with the CIA FBI DA and US military. He ran a money laundering and smuggling empire with total impunity. The only person he had answered to was Omar Torrijos and he had the leverage to keep the dictator on his side for years to come. Tony Noriega the poor mistakes. Oh boy with a pockmarked face had risen to near absolute and unchecked power. He may not have worn the crown but sometimes the real kingpin is the man behind the throne. Thanks again for listening to kingpins. Join US next week to see. How Manuel Antonio Noriega ascended the final rung of the ladder replacing his mentor as the military dictator of Panama will examine how he became so powerful so cruel and so corrupt it took an entire invasion to knock him off his pedestal. You can find kingpins as well as all of our casts other podcasts on Apple podcasts spotify stitcher. Google play cast box or your favorite podcast directory. Many of you have asked how to help the show. And if you enjoyed this the best way to help is to leave a five star review. We'll see you next time. Kingpins was created by Max Cutler and is a production of cutler media and is part of the podcast network it is produced by Max and Ron Cutler. Sound design by Michael Lang's ner with production assistance by Ron Shapiro and Paul Moller Additional Production Assistance by Maggie admire and Carly Madden kingpins is written by Jordan. Tr- appear in stars Kate Leonard. And how will target?

Coming up next