How's this for Orwellian? When ruthless Panamanian thug slash CIA informant Manuel Noriega came to power following the assassination by plane crash of Omar Torrijos, he was already leader of the Panamanian Defense Forces, the small elite army of Panama.

However, Noriega did not have the support of the local police; most of their allegiance remained with the moneyed gentry of Panama (predominantly foreigners profiting from the shipping industry) and tended not to enforce Noriega's often overbearing orders. To combat this, Noriega dispatched some members of the PDF into "dignity battalions", or DIGBATs, to terrorize the people, threaten opposition leaders, and generally create havoc in Panama at his command.

In general, the dignity battalions were rarely called out; they served more as a threat than any real danger. However, by 1988, with the United States pulling back business and a precipitous run on the bank, Noriega began letting his dogs loose with more frequency. This culminated in the bloody battle between protesters and the Dignity Battalions on May 10, two days after a rigged election was held to put Noriega's puppet successor into power.

When the call came to finally remove Noriega in power in November, 1989, the DIGBATs resumed their day jobs of defending the country, and many were captured in the brief firefight. Amazingly, in 1999, Panamanian president Ernesto Pérez Balladares awarded members of the battalions $35 million in back pay, causing an uproar among the citizenry.

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