Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega is dead. Minga loathed him. I happened to be in Panama and with her watching grainy black and white TV when Noriega was returned to Panama from France, after serving prison sentences there and in the United States. He deplaned at some distance from the main terminal and was put into a police van to be taken to prison in Panama, but Minga thought it was all a hoax, that the wily strongman was evading justice again. No doubt she will receive news of his death with a sense that Noriega at last has to answer for his crimes before God, and that the Panamanian people whom he brutalized and terrorized are avenged.
Noriega was on the CIA payroll, and he was involved with Oliver North during the Iran Contra scandal trying to get in on the action. Our country backed a lot of really bad actors in Central America during the 1980’s — the Reagan years. We turned a blind eye to Noriega’s drug dealing and corruption, his murder of political opponent and reformer Dr. Hugo Spadafora, in return for whatever information Noriega was willing to pass along about the flow of drugs. We enriched him royally for, in my opinion, not much.
I asked Lily how she felt about this news, and she said it’s hard to respond because she was a small child during the years of Noriega’s reign. But she will be seeing family this coming weekend, and she will ask Minga and her aunts and uncles how they feel. I’ll pass along anything interesting that they might say.