El Jefe Máximo: How Manuel Noriega Came to Power and Sustained His Regime

Peter Joseph Moons, Salve Regina University


This dissertation analyzes how Manuel Noriega learned from his predecessor, General Omar Torrijos, the strongman and ruler of Panama from 1969–1981, and followed in his footsteps. Through effective scheming, Noriega pushed aside other members of the Panamanian National Guard to become its chief; he then became commander in chief of the Panamanian Defense Forces and the de facto ruler of the country from 1983 – 1989. By leveraging military force, engaging in corruption, and committing human rights violations, Noriega sought to sustain his rule during 11 crises that threatened his hold on power. Niccolo Machiavelli's book, "The Prince", serves as a guide to judge the effectiveness of General Noriega's decisions in each crisis. Several of Noriega's decisions violated the advice Machiavelli provided in "The Prince" and these errors contributed to the general's ultimate downfall.

Subject Area

Latin American history|Latin American Studies|Political science

Recommended Citation

Moons, Peter Joseph, "El Jefe Máximo: How Manuel Noriega Came to Power and Sustained His Regime" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI13859244.