Few protest ex-dictator in Panama
PANAMA CITY - The Associated Press
Panama’s ex-dictator Noriega gestures while being carried in a wheelchair. AP photoMore than two decades after the U.S. forced him from power, Manuel Noriega returned to Panama on Dec. 11 as a prisoner and, to many of those he once ruled with impunity, an irrelevant man.
There were no legions of admirers at Panama City’s Tocumen airport when the Spanish Iberia airlines’ flight touched down, delivering him from Paris’ La Sante prison after a stopover in Madrid. The crowds in the capital were of holiday shoppers. An elevated platform was set up at the prison so journalists could watch him enter, giving Panamanians what likely was their only glimpse of the man who once ran the country like his private fiefdom. As if to show how just far he has declined, Noriega, once known for his snappy military uniforms and nationalistic swagger, appeared to have been wheeled into the prison in a wheelchair.
About a dozen protesters, identifying themselves as relatives of army officers shot by Noriega’s forces, gathered at the prison’s main entrance. One held a sign saying “Justice, Noriega, Killer.” Another woman shouted “Die, you wretch! Now you’re going to pay for your crimes.” Downtown, some people could be heard banging pots and honking car horns, a symbolic gesture of repudiation that activists had suggested to show their rejection of Noriega.