Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has died. He was 83. Noriega had been in a Panama City hospital since May 7th, where he had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor. After the surgery, Noriega remained in a medically induced coma, Reuters reported.
Noriega rose to power in Panama in 1983, when he took control of the country’s military.
Noriega became the country’s leader after serving under General Omar Torrijos, who took control of Panama in a 1968 military coup. Gen. Torrijos died in a plane crash in 1981, leaving the power vacuum that Noriega would eventually fill.
Despite Noriega’s erratic behavior, the United States kept him as an ally because of Panama’s strategic location in Latin America.
Noriega proved to be an ally of the United States — as a CIA informant, he often provided useful intel to authorities. However, as the New York Times reported, Noriega was known to sell information to political adversaries of the United States, including Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Outside of political relations, Noriega was known for his brash display of power, often giving impassioned speeches while brandishing a machete, or throwing “cocaine-fueled” parties.
In 1989, Noriega was indicted by the United States and President George H.W. Bush invaded Panama, sending in 20,000 troops in what was called, “Operation Just Cause.”
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As U.S. troops filled the country, Noriega took refuge in the Panama City Vatican embassy. He remained there for 10 days, while the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration assaulted the embassy with loud music (listen to the playlist here), The BBC reported.
Noriega finally surrendered to the DEA on January 3rd, 1990. His trial was held in 1991.
As the New York Times reported in 1992, Noriega was convicted of 8 counts of “drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering.” For these crimes, Noriega, who was 58 years old at the time, was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
As news spread, Panama’s current president acknowledged the death of the country’s former leader.
Muerte de Manuel A. Noriega cierra un capítulo de nuestra historia; sus hijas y sus familiares merecen un sepelio en paz.
Welcome to Spotlight, where we do a deep dive in the careers of artists, producers, songwriters and more people making an impact in the Latin music industry.
Dimelo Flow, the Panamanian producer behind hits like “Relación Remix” and “Otro Trago“, talked to us about how he started off as a basketball prospect turned club DJ, and how his love for music led him to become a producer. Now he’s not only working with the biggest names in Reggaeton like Daddy Yankee, J Balvin, and Bad Bunny, but has his sights on making global records and putting Panamá on the map.
Watch the full interview below:
During our Spotlight interview, Dimelo also talked to us about his creative process, knowing exactly how to craft the perfect remix and where to locate each artist to create the perfect synergy on a track.
Dimelo also touched on reinventing his sound and collaborating with fellow Panamian artist Sech for his upcoming album ‘42.’
The Avengers project cemented Dimelo Flow, Sech, Dalex, Justin Quiles, Feid and Lenny Tavarez as a force in reggaeton and took their careers to new heights. Dimelo said that they are already working on a follow-up to The Academy.
No one can deny the impact Latinos have had in the sport of boxing. The rough upbringing of many young men from the region has led trainers and managers to generate a vast quantity of world champions. Names like Julio Cesar Chávez, Ricardo López Nava, Felix Tito Trinidad, Alexis Arguello, and Carlos Monzón bring tears of joy to fans from countries as diverse as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Nicaragua. Boxing champions encapsulate the dreams and aspirations of young Latinos. Because it is often the case that in our continent governments fail the population and each person has to fend for themselves, boxing has become a metaphor for individual progress amidst the most adverse circumstances.
Roberto Durán is one of the most iconic boxers from Latin America to embody the fighting spirit of Panama.
Credit: Instagram. @robertoduranbox
Panamanian legend Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Durán broke into the Latin American and U.S. mainstream pop culture due to his volatile personality and the brutal precision of his fighting style. Now retired, Durán is again in the spotlight due to the release of the documentary “I Am Durán,” directed by Mat Hodgson and which features other personalities such as Oscar De La Hoya and Robert De Niro, a big fan of his.
So before you watch the documentary, here are some facts about the proud son of Panama. Keep your guard up!
He was born on June 16, 1951.
He was born in Guararé, where his mother Clara Samaniego was from. His father was from Arizona in the United States and was of Mexican descent.
He was abandoned by his dad when he was only 5-years-old.
As a way of survival, his family could not keep him in school but rather had to send him to work in the streets as a shoeshine boy. Just like the Filipino great Manny Pacquiao, Durán learned the ropes of life in the streets. That made him hungry for success, a hunger he translated into surgically performed combinations in the boxing ring.
He laced up the gloves when he was 8-years-old.
His fighting spirit was there from the beginning. He grew up in the slums of El Chorrillo, so he had to learn how to defend himself in the rough streets. He visited the gym Neco de La Guardia as a kid and the rest is history: before they knew it, he was up there in the ring sparring experienced boxers. What a chico maravilla.
He began his pro career with 31 straight wins.
Durán got a reputation of being a killer in the ring due to his hard punches, solid body frame and general toughness. He won the lightweight championship against Ken Buchanan in 1972 but lost for the first time that same year against Esteban de Jesus. The fight in Madison Square Garden was his Waterloo. Two years later he rematched De Jesus and knocked him out. It is important to note that the De Jesus fight was his sixth in 1972, so he was worn out.
He was the first Latin American boxer to rule in four weight classes.
Others would follow (the Mexican greats JC Chávez, Juan Manuel Márquez, and Travieso Arce), but Roberto was the first bad hombre from Latin America to rule in four weight classes. And he did so in a day and age when a world championship was hard to get (in today’s corrupt boxing world there are up to four champions per each one of the 17 weight classes, so being a champ is relatively easier). He also fought many fights scheduled for 15 rounds instead of the current 12. Even though his best years were at lightweight, he rules the following classes: lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight, and middleweight.
He made 12 defenses of the lightweight title.
Roberto was practically indestructible for a period of time. He won eleven title defenses by KO and reached a record of 62-1. He gave up the lightweight title in 1979. He basically dominated world boxing in the 1970s with those hands of stone that sent opponents to sleep, one after an another.
His biggest night: beating Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980 for the welterweight title.
After vacating the lightweight title “Manos de Piedra” moved to welterweight. He defeated Carlos Palomino and Zeferino Gonzales, two tough opponents. Once comfortable in the new weight, he faced the golden boy of US boxing, Sugar Ray Leonard, in a fateful June 20 night in Montreal, Canada. Roberto’s relentless pressure broke down Sugar Ray. Thunder defeated lighting and Durán won by a unanimous decision.
But then came the infamous “No Más.”
After defeating Leonard “Manos de Piedra” became even more legendary. He went back to Panama and partied like there was no tomorrow. The rematch was fought in November. Leonard trained like a champ, while Roberto had to cut weight extremely fast and just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Leonard was magnificent: he played with Roberto, mocked him, slipped the Panamanian’s punches and basically humiliated him. In the eighth round, Roberto turned his back to Leonard and said: “No sigo” (this were his actual words, although the infamous “No Mas” is how the event was remembered.
He rebuilt his career.
It would be hard for any sports figure to come back after such a meaningful defeat. It is not the same being knocked out after a valiant effort as quitting. It was such a disappointment not only for the fighter but also for his millions of fans. So what did the great fighter do? What all elite pugilists do: he came back with a vengeance. He defeated Wilfred Benitez and Davey Moore, two of the best fighters in the world.
He is one of the 1980s Magnificent Four.
Boxing in the 1980s was defined by four greats: Roberto, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, and Marvin Hagler. These four all fought each other and gave fans thrills. Roberto lost to Hearns by KO and to Hagler by a tough decision, but his name will always be attached to one of boxing’s golden eras.
He fought until 2000.
It is unusual for a fighter in this day an age to compete across four decades, but Durán did it. His professional debut was on February 23, 1968, and his last fight was a loss to Puerto Rican extraordinaire Hector Macho Camacho on July 14, 2000. At the end of his career, his record read 103 wins, 16 losses, and a whopping 70 KOs. Wow, just wow.
The debate continues: is he the greatest Latino fighter ever?
That is hard to tell. The main contenders for this mythic title are here in this photograph with him: Mexicans Julio Cesar Chávez and Juan Manuel Márquez, who also faced myriad of champions and former champions over their storied careers. One thing is for certain, Roberto wrote his name on the annals of boxing history in golden letters. And he will never be forgotten.