Manuel Noriega Taught Me When To Fold Them

“Yo soy el General Noriega. Me rindo a las fuerza de los Estados Unidos.”


These words were said by Panamanian General Noriega on January 3, 1990 outside the Vatican diplomatic mission. I was driven to write about this today due to a beautifully embedded message. It is advantageous to surrender in certain circumstances.

General Noriega must have been a fan of Kenny Rogers’ hit The Gambler. Especially the lyrics:

You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to run…secret to survivin’ is knowing what to throw away…the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

I enjoyed the song for the main character. I found that many people have taken great gambles in life and have seen awesome results, but often the end won’t be that beautiful. Death is often the only thing we can count on. The flash and pizzazz can disappear.

Noriega decided to not go out with a blaze of glory. He did his best to survive. He summoned up a decent legal team. He chose not to be killed or killed by his own hand. He folded a fairly decent hand. The dealer might have let him win for several rounds but Noriega knew that his cards could go sour eventually.

I admired that Manuel Noriega went willingly. He served his time and kept his head down. His greatest punishment was not incarceration but being away from his family. He survived US federal prison, French prison, and even his home countries sentencing. (He eventually was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away in 2017).

Noriega found it survivable that he surrender or as I call it “folding his hand”. I don’t think that men should be scared of death but I also think that they shouldn’t underestimate their enemies forgiveness either. Noriega teaches you to weigh your options and engage in a gamble. It is up to you to believe yourself a winner.



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