While he was never officially declared the ruler of Panama, Manuel Noriega rose to power backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency by gaining full control of the small country's military. He attended a military school in Peru before receiving training at the US-sponsored School of the Americas, a training facility renowned for the human rights violations of its trainees.
After his rise to power, he rigged an election--the first allowed in 16 years--in 1984 after being named CEO of the country by Panama's legislature. His results showed his candidate winning by a slim margin of just over 1,000 votes. Actual results would have had the opposition winning by more than 50,000 votes.
He was called out by Hugo Spadafora, a critic, for his corruption and drug trafficking. This critic met his end in a confrontation with a death squad at the border of Cuba. Investigations were not allowed by Noriega after the body was found decapitated and apparently tortured, wrapped in a US Postal Service mailbag. Similar murderous corruption continued throughout his rule.
His CIA support ended on February 4th, 1989, when he was indicted by the DEA on drug trafficking charges. On February 25th of the same year, he was relieved of his duties by the Panamanian President. He maintained his post in spite of the decree.
After rigging the 1989 elections, he was arrested in the US invasion of Panama. A standoff ensued in which the US blasted the Holy See's embassy with loud music. Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990. He was tried in 1992 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. This sentence was reduced to 30 years in 1999 and later to 17 years due to good behavior. His sentence ended September 9, 2007, but he remains in prison awaiting extradition to either France or back to Panama where further sentences await him.