(Note: All of this true except for the phone calls!) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- When I saw the 82nd Airborne triumphantly marching through the streets of Panama City on CNN, I was elated. At last we have captured that tirant who was thumbing his nose at us, smuggling drugs and laundering money. It was time to call all my old friends in the Panamanian opposition who fought tooth and nail to get rid of Noriega. I phoned my friend, Carlos Eleta, a leader of the Panamanian opposition. I knew he would be overjoyed. "Carlos, que pasa?" I said. "Nada, hombre", he said. He sounded a bit under the weather. Carlos is in prison in Atlanta awaiting trial on importing 500 kilos of cocaine and money laundering. "Carlos, is it true?", I said, "Have they finally got Noriega, that drug kingpin?" "Hombre, I don't know. The CIA cut me off. They don't tell me anything anymore. I gotta go back to my cell now." Carlos was obviosly bummed out. When the CIA gave him $10 million dollars to spread cheer and good will around the opposition last year during the elections, he was in seventh heaven. This cocaine thing was definitely getting him down. O.K, next call: Henry Ford. No, not the American auto magnate, the Panamanian banker. No, I don't know why a Panamanian has a name like "Henry Ford". But he's brother of the new 2nd Vice President of Panama and that's good enough for me. I ran into Henry in Washington during Senator Kerry's hearings on Terrorism and Narcotics. He was dodging reporters at the time - I guess Henry and his veep brother "Billy" got into an awkward spot for being tied to the laundering of $151 million of drug money from Miami to Panama. Their partner Ramon Milian Rodriguez is doing 43 years for that, but thank God the Fords slipped out of that dreary mess unmuddied. "Henry, isn't this great?", I said, full of enthusiam. "Carajo", he said, "these yanquis don't know when to quit! I help the soldiers overthrow Noriega and now they want to open up our banking records!" I could hear him coming apart. "But Henry, don't you want to expose Noriega's drug running?", I asked. "No need to now, because we're free, damn it! Now give us some slack!" Poor Henry. I guess our banking investigations are getting him a little rattled. I was getting worried now. I had to find someone who could tell me that the largest military mobilization since the Vietnam War wasn't a blowout. When "blowout" crossed my mind, I automatically thought of my old friends, Rogelio Cruz who is now Treasury Minister, and Carlos Lucas, the new president of the Panamanian Supreme Court. "Rogelio, you gotta tell me this thing was on the up and up", I said. "Man~ana, man. I got my own troubles", he said and hung up. It turns out that even after the invasion, bankers Cruz and Lucas are dodging legal bullets. They were directors of the First Interamericas Bank which was owned by Medellin drug lords Ochoa and Orejeula, but was later shut down by one of Noriega's drug busts. I guess they are just kind of laying low for now. O.K., I decided to call their law partner Jaime Arias Calderon, brother of the 1st Vice President of Panama. This was my last chance. "Jaime, isn't there anyone who can give me a straight story down there?" "I didn't do it!", Jaime blurted out. It seems he thought I was talking about his indictment in the U.S. on fraud and obstruction of justice in that $100 million embezzlement case. "Chill out, Jaime. I'm not calling you about that. What I want to know is if this invasion going to stop the drug running, now that Noriega is gone." He paused, then said "Hey man, don't ask me. Ask my brother, he's the vice president." I felt like I was getting nowhere. Clearly, it was time to get to the bottom of this matter. I called the top brass in Panama. "Hello, General Thurman?" "Yo!", answered the head of the Southern Command. "Is the invasion going to put an end to the drug running and money laudering?", I asked. "Absolutely!", came the response, "we have already made a large haul from General Noriega's residence - 5 kilos of white powder." I said, "But I thought that was flour for making tamales." "It was. But don't worry, sport, it'll put a large dent in illegal tamale flour smuggling. Gotta go", he said and hung up. I was relieved. I guess it wasn't a waste of time after all.
(From the "Rest" of RHF)