Panamanian ex-president Manuel Noriega, who has spent the last 22 years in U.S. and French prisons, arrived back home last night, where he will likely live out his days in yet another cell.
The 77-year-old former president, seized in Panama during a U.S. invasion in 1989, was believed to be an informant for U.S. intelligence and drug enforcement agencies, providing information in the 1970s and 1980s about leftist movements in Latin America. In later years, he also became a major drug trafficker and money launderer, with close ties to Colombia’s Medellin cartel. Noriega memorably surrendered to U.S. forces after the military blared heavy metal music non-stop outside the Vatican’s embassy, where he had taken refuge.
A Miami jury convicted the ex-president of drug smuggling, and he served 17 years. Noriega also did time in France for money laundering. In Panama, he was convicted in absentia of three murders, and sentenced to 20 years for each.
While most of Panama’s citizens are too young to remember his brutality and corruption, and much of the country has moved on, the families of his victims are still hoping for answers. Some have never found the remains of his victims.
Allegations of corruption are thickening around the presidency of South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak.
A senior aide to the president’s brother, Lee-Sang-deuk, a member of parliament from the president’s Grand National Party, was arrested on bribery charges over the weekend. The new allegations come just weeks after President Lee’s press secretary and his vice culture minister were also arrested for allegedly taking bribes.
The aide, identified only as Park, is accused of accepting more than $600,000 in cash and pricey wristwatches from two executives in exchange for help in saving their companies from bankruptcy.
Park is also suspected of taking bribes from a savings back, whose operations had been suspended over illegal lending practices. The president of that bank, the Jeil Savings Bank, had earlier admitted to bribing President Lee’s brother-in-law, Kim Jae-hong, in the hope of easing the bank’s way with government regulators.
To followers of this space, the findings of a new poll by the BBC might come as little surprise: Worldwide, corruption is the top issue on people’s minds, according to a new survey from the World Service.
The poll, of 11,000 people in 23 countries around the world, found corruption outpacing a raft of other problems, including rising prices, unemployment, crime and violence as the issue people are most frequently talking about. Nearly one in four people interviewed for the survey said they had discussed corruption in the prior month.
In addition, the poll found that the fear of joblessness was the fastest growing concern, with 18 percent of respondents saying they had discussed unemployment over the past four weeks, a six-fold increase since the survey began in 2009.