As former Panamanian dictator and CIA employee Manuel Noriega faces money laundering charges in France after spending nearly 20 years in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking, my mind wanders back to the mid-1970s, when I met the then-colonel at a New Year’s Eve party in Panama City.
The party was at the home of a wealthy Panamanian family that owned a cement company. My mother and father, the latter a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, had been invited on account of my mother’s charitable work with the Inter-American Women’s Club. My wife and I, visiting from Mexico, tagged along.
There was a live band playing salsa, an endless supply of Ron Cortez and Cerveza Panamá delivered by fast-moving waiters, and an abundance of prettily dressed debutantes and their dates dancing around a pool. In other words, the wealthiest families in Panama were hurting under the government of Noriega’s populist predecessor General Omar Torrijos.
BUENOS AIRES — While some nations are known to take advantage of global distraction by the World Cup in order to perpetrate human rights violations, Argentina is pressing ahead in its efforts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed during the Guerra Sucia.
In the first of eight major human rights trials currently getting underway, a three-judge panel in Buenos Aires took up a case on June 3 in which six former military and intelligence officials from the 1976-83 dictatorship are charged with the illegal kidnap, torture, and murder of suspected political opponents from Uruguay, Chile, and Cuba.
The victims were among the 30,000 or so opponents of the Argentine regime who were disappeared during the Dirty War.
The case is “Automotores Orletti,” named for the Buenos Aires auto repair shop the dictatorship used as a ghastly clandestine “detention center.” One of many such facilities across the country, its kidnap victims were tortured with repair shop machinery and tools.