Editorial, Manuel Antonio Noriega

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Then US Vice President George H. W. Bush and then General Manuel Antonio Noriega in a 1983 meeting.

Manuel Antonio Noriega

Once a general who ruled Panama, Manuel Antonio Noriega has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. His death at Santo Tomas Hospital, after surgery to remove a brain tumor and subsequent complications, is a tragedy of the sort that we all face sometime or another. He was 83 years old — by most accounts, more or less — and we all die sometime. Let him rest in peace and let his family mourn his passing unmolested.

That Noriega died in a hospital bed rather than in a prison cell is one small testament to President Varela’s Catholic sense of decency. The many people who opposed the former strongman getting released under house and hospital arrest during his final illness, some of them in quite vicious terms, are a collective exhibit of how nasty otherwise morally upright people can be when they act in groups that are in the grip of some passion.

So does Noriega pass into history? Can Panama now turn a page and forget? Many in the political caste, and some of the rabiblancos who got much richer during the dictatorship, would like us to think that. But as a matter of national security, Panama must know its history to properly defend itself against threats foreign and domestic. That means, among other things, that the return and publication of the government archives seized by the US military forces during the 1989 US invasion ought to come front and center as a Panamanian foreign policy aim. That means, among other things, that a full and frank accounting of the damages inflicted and good things accomplished by the 1968-1989 military dictatorship ought to be part of the Panamanian educational curriculum.

 

Bear in mind…

Intellectuals are like fine glass, crystal glass, which can be cracked by a sound. Panama is made of rock and earth.
Chuchú Martínez

 

Of course, we can’t let the Central Intelligence Agency get involved directly. We can’t let it appear as though we are taking direct action here. We need help.
The late CIA director William Casey
quoted by the late Manuel Antonio Noriega
about a US bid to get Panama’s open support for the Contra War

 

Ignorance can be good in politics. Carter and I agreed about the Canal Treaty because we were both ignorant of the problems it raised. If we hadn’t been ignorant the treaty would never have been signed.
Omar Torrijos

 

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