January 3, 1990 Panama’s dictator General Manuel Noriega hands himself over to US soldiers who found him hiding in the Vatican embassy in Panama City, two weeks after the US invasion of the country. Noriega, who had been the de facto ruler of Panama since 1983, was arrested on charges of drug trafficking. Whilst head of the Panamanian intelligence services in the 1960s and 70s under the brutal regime of General Omar Torrijos, Noriega was also working as a CIA operative. However he used his contacts to cement his own power in Panama and smuggle narcotics out of the country. Following rigged elections in 1989, the US – which had by then realised Noriega had been double-crossing the CIA – invaded. After his capture, he was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison by a Florida court for drug trafficking and money laundering. The sentence was reduced to 17 years for good behaviour but when it expired in 2007 he was kept in custody awaiting extradition to France, where he had had already been convicted in absentia for money laundering. After a short spell in a Paris prison, he was extradited to Panama in October 2011, and is currently in jail there for human rights abuses committed during his rule.
*Also on January 3:*Pope John XXIII excommunicates Fidel Castro (1962); Apple Computer is incorporated (1977); The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) is signed by presidents Bush and Yeltsin (1993).
Born on January 3: Clement Attlee (1883), JRR Tolkien (1892), Sergio Leone (1929), Mel Gibson (1956), Michael Schumacher (1969), Eli Manning (1981).