News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home

Volume 14, Number 21
November 10, 2008

economy

Also in this section:
Labor Ministry official faces prosecution for favoring Isla Viveros company union
No bids on Noriega houses
Cinta Costera progresses
Antenna rule changes, protests
Canal retirees feted
The Panama News download numbers
Holiday line at the Panama Canal
Business & Economy Briefs


No bids on Noriega's houses
by Eric Jackson, from other media

On October 29 the government announced that it had called off the auction planned for the following day of two of former strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega's houses. Nobody had applied to bid at the auction.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance's  Promotion and Sale of State Assets Division wanted to sell two properties in the upscale Altos de Golf neighborhood, which it estimated had a combined value of $6.1 million. The ministry had also planned to sell one of the incarcerated general's five Chiriqui properties, a 200-hectare farm with a house on it in Dolega, but those plans may also now be on hold.

The ex-dictator's properties here have been the subject of litigation ever since the 1989 US invasion, shortly after which the Endara administration seized them as the fruits of corruption that cost far more than what a military officer could afford on his salary or other legitimately shown income. But Noriega's family has alleged other sources of income or inheritance, and a few seized properties were ordered returned by lower courts. The sale of the houses in Altos de Golf and in Dolega had been approved by an appeals court, but there was always the possibility of more appeals to the Supreme Court.

There was other potential litigation looming over the properties as well. The families of dissidents whom the military killed and in some cases disappeared were claiming any proceeds of any auction as compensation due to them under Panamanian laws designed to indemnify crime victims with the income from the sale of criminals' assets. The municipal government in Dolega is also claiming Noriega's real estate there, and years ago moved into some of it, turning one of his old houses into a public library.

It may be that the deflation of Panama's upscale real estate bubble had more to do with the lack of bidders than did the prospect of further court battles. The land that would have been sold is valuable, but the houses were looted and trashed during the invasion and have been abandoned for years. Anybody wanting to live a life of luxury in them would have to make a substantial investment in their renovation. Thus those with the money and inclination to buy such properties may have decided that they aren't worth nearly as much as the government estimates and declined to bid for that reason.

Then there is the factor of the general's friends, some of whom had begun to paint and repair one of the Altos de Golf houses as Noriega's September 2007 release date from his US prison sentence approached. The Torrijos administration is full of old Norieguistas and has taken different public and private positions on Noriega's status. Privately it supported the Bush administration's plans to send him to France to face money laundering charges, but its public statements were that it was seeking his extradition to Panama to face justice for crimes committed here. However, the Foreign Ministry neglected to file an extradition request and the National Assembly passed and President Torrijos signed a law that would allow Noriega, due to his age, to serve any prison sentence under house arrest. The man's return to Panama would cause a serious crisis within the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party, and would present an especially acute political problem if it came before May 2009 elections. But as destructive as it might be to Balbina Herrera's chances of being elected president, in the early hours of the invasion her house was the first place to which Noriega fled and under these circumstances any potential buyer would have to consider the risk of a political decision to have the old dictator back here and living in one of his old houses.

Although he has finished serving his US prison sentence on drug trafficking conspiracy charges, Noriega remains behind bars in Miami while fighting his extradition to France. He has lost that battle in every court so far, but still has several steps that he could play out. A November hearing in a case before US Federal Court of Appeals in Atlanta, wherein Noriega is challenging a district judge's denial of his habeas corpus motion, has been postponed until January. In effect that will hand the American decision about what to do with this prisoner to the incoming Obama administration.


Also in this section:
Labor Ministry official faces prosecution for favoring Isla Viveros company union
No bids on Noriega houses
Cinta Costera progresses
Antenna rule changes, protests
Canal retirees feted
The Panama News download numbers
Holiday line at the Panama Canal
Business & Economy Briefs


News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home

Make the Executive Hotel your headquarters in Panama City --- http://ww.executivehotel-panama.com
Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine ---
http://www.evermarine.com

© 2008 by Eric Jackson
All Rights Reserved - Todos Derechos Reservados
Individual contributors retain the rights to their articles or photos

email: editor@thepanamanews.com or

e_l_jackson_malo@yahoo.com

Cell phone: (507) 6-632-6343

Mailing address:
Eric Jackson
att'n The Panama News
Apartado 0831-00927 Estafeta Paitilla
Panamá, República de Panamá