Panama! (Case Study 40)

Rudolf von Slatin
Manuel Noriega

On the left is the chart of Rudolph Carl von Slatin (7 June 1857– 4 October 1932). Slatin was a Major General in the Austro-Hungarian Army. He was born in Vienna and fought in Bosnia with Prince Rudolph. He later was invited to serve in Darfur and attained the position of Governor General. In 1882 He and his Ottoman forces were defeated in battle by rebel Darfuri Sheikh Madibbo ibn Ali. He converted to Islam publicly believing his forces would blame their loss on his Christianity. They lost the next battle too however; Khartoum fell to the Mahidists. Slatin spent the next 11 years as a prisoner. He served as an enslaved interpreter and bodyguard to Khalifa Abduhalli.

He escaped with the help of Sir Reginald Wingate of Egyptian Intelligence. He traveled 1000 Km across the desert to Egypt over the course of three weeks in 1895. In 1897 he served with the Egyptian forces that took over the Sudan where he had been in captivity. He was made an honorary Knight by Queen Victoria of England and was Knighted by Franz Joseph I of Austria. He wrote two books about his exploits. He had served Austria Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, British forces in Egypt and a Dara Sheikh.

On the right is the chart of Manuel Noriega (February 11, 1934 – May 29, 2017). He was born in a Panama City slum, He was racially a mestizo, with indigenous, black and latino blood. This was generally a hindrance to social mobility. His parents died when he was quite young. He was brought up by his Godmother and was able to receive a decent education. After meeting his half brother Luis Carlos Noriega Hurtado he became a socialist activist and moved in with him. He protested the US presence in Panama and also became a CIA contact. His first payment for information about socialists in Panama from the US was $10 in 1955.

He won a scholarship to a military academy in Lima and got a job at the Panamanian Embassy there, talk about a charmed life. Upon graduation he returned home to an officers commission in the reserves. Eventually he became the head of intelligence and later the Commanding General of the Army and De Facto ruler of Panama.

He had been selling information about US activities to the Cuban government for some time and the CIA was aware of this. He was also using his position to smuggle weapons to different paramilitary groups in Latin America as well as drugs, primarily cocaine, to the United States. He didn’t seem to care about the politics of the groups he supplied weapons to or smuggled drugs for as long as he was getting paid.

He had become a contact for Lt Colonel Oliver North, offering in 1985 to assassinate Sandinista leaders for an enhanced image with the US. He agreed that same year to help train Nicaraguan Contra rebels on Panamanian soil. He was purportedly involved in the Iran Contra affair. CIA director William Webster called him an ally in the “War on Drugs” although his cocaine smuggling had continued.

By 1989 Noriega had fallen out of favor with the US and it was deemed he would be a problem for retention of control of the Panama Canal. An invasion was launched after the death of a US Marine by PDF troops. Noriega was arrested and tried on drug smuggling charges in the US then in France and finally in Panama. He spent the rest of his life in prison first in the US and finally in Panama. He succeeded in taking over the country but not the canal for whomever put him there.