On December 20, 1989, the United States Military invaded Panama in hopes of deposing the 6-year-de-facto leader, Manuel Noriega. Though he was never elected, one of the world's most famous dictators ruled the small central American country through military force. He was not the president or a legislator of the country, but he used his command of the military as a means to influence the government for his own benefit. In the midst of a war over illicit substances and multiple civil disputes throughout Latin America, Noriega became one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the region. For most of his reign, however, he was not an enemy of the United States, but one of the country's most trusted allies.
Noriega's rise to power began during the Cold War. He joined Panama's National Guard in 1962 and quickly climbed the ranks. When his would-be predecessor Omar Torrijos came to power through a military coup, Noriega was his second-in-command. During his time in the National Guard and the head of the nation's intelligence service, Noriega proved he was an asset to the US government. He led multiple campaigns and operations against Communist insurgents in the region and the US recognized him as a means to underhandedly provide support to other anti-communist regimes in the area. He could even offer intelligence on Cuba's Communist government for a contingency fee.
The United States began to lose trust in Noriega in the mid-'70s. Both Torrijos and Noriega were suspected of selling US intelligence to the Cubans while contracted by the Americans, trafficking into the United States, and arming Communist rebels in other Latin American countries with paraphernalia bought from the US. Noriega came to power as de facto leader after Torrijos perished in a plane crash in 1981, and throughout the decade, he once again became an asset. He allowed the US government to use Panama as a place to conduct espionage operations in Nicaragua amidst the countries US-instigated civil unrest, and even offered to help take out Nicaragua's government leaders.
The relationship between US Intelligence and Panama's military dictator finally relented when Noriega was nearly deposed by a coup in 1988 and was accused of rigging the 1984 presidential election. The US Senate rescinded all support and sought Noriega's resignation. The United States invaded in 1989 after failed negotiations, but Noriega fled the military for as long as he could. On December 29, 1989, he found refuge in the Apostolic Nunciature in Panama City. Unable to breach the walls of the Nunciature due to a diplomatic treaty, the US military created a perimeter around it and used psychological tactics to force the country's former leader out of hiding. The US military blared music for 10 straight days trying to coax Noriega out of hiding. In his memoirs, Noriega described the week and a half as "falling into a swimming pool and when you try to reach for the safety of a wall or touch bottom, you suddenly realize that walls and bottom had fallen away." He wished the army would come in armed and take him away from the incessant '80s rock power ballads and classic country oldies. On January 3, 1990, Noriega finally surrendered to US forces.