Thursday, July 19, 2007

France wants a piece of Manny

Could prisoner number 38699-079 be headed for an all expenses paid vacation in France?

Yesterday, lawyers for the United States Department of Justice have filed a request before a federal judge in Miami to extradite former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to France when his US prison term expires on September 9th of this year. The Justice Department is seeking an arrest warrant for Noriega to be issued the same day his sentence is up in Florida for extradition to France. The 69 year old Noriega was convicted in absentia in France for drug trafficking charges, and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of 75 million French francs. It would appear that the French are really chomping at the bit to get their hands on them.

Noriega himself was hoping to return to Panama, but the Panamanian government has made it clear that they want nothing to do with their former caudillo whatsoever. Noriega's lawyers are arguing, with fairly good reasoning, that their client is a prisoner of war, and is entitled to return to his country of origin. Panama's refusal to take him back, combined with the determination of the Americans and French to see Noriega extradited strongly suggest that Manuel Noriega will be 80 years old, broke and homeless by the time he's finally had his fill of French liberté, and égalité - to say nothing of all the fraternité.

So where will Noriega go if he actually survives his French prison term? I'd be willing to bet that Hugo Chávez will have a spot ready for Noriega in Caracas. And why not? Military strongmen need to stick together after all, and as the saying goes, "any enemy of my enemy is a friend of mine".

UPDATE: The Panamanians want Noriega back after all - to try him for the murder of a political enemy whose severed head was found in a mailbag. Who gets him first, Panama, or France?

1 comment:

Joshua Foust said...

I wonder if the French's idea of fraternite in prison is the same as ours... in which case I would assume Noriega would fight for his life, or something.