What happens next?
After being jailed in the United States and then in France for more than twenty years, the former Panamanian dictator was extradited to Panamá, where he arrived on the evening of December 11th. He is now in a cell at the El Renacer facility in Gamboa, a maximum-security prison located in a jungle area on the shores of the Panama Canal.
During his reign in Panama, Noriega killed and tortured many. He is still hated here, although perhaps with less intensity than before his involuntary departure courtesy of Operation Just Cause in 1990. His rise to power took off when he became the head of the military area of Chiriquí Province, where my wife and I now live and where three of the thirteen luxurious estates he once owned are located. Here’s what’s left of one closer to Panamá City.
There are others, here and elsewhere, formerly or still owned on his behalf by his former henchmen.
Locals of a certain age are generally reluctant to talk of the days of Noriega but will if pressed. Back in Noriega’s day, people who spoke out against him were tortured, murdered or “disappeared,” often the same thing. Such memories don’t fade quickly. There is an excellent but appropriately gruesome account of the period in the Time of the Tyrants. According to two Panamanian friends, both then in positions to know what was happening and whom I questioned several years ago, the account of the Noriega years provided there is generally accurate. It’s great to have you back, Pineapple Face. Please do enjoy your pleasant future here in Panamá.
For more, please read my article on Noriega and his return to Panamá published today at PJ Media.