Noriega heads to jail, this time at home


Manuel Noriega, enroute.



Former military dictator Manuel Noriega is heading to jail back home in Panama. 

The onetime ruler had been serving time in a French prison, and before that in the US for drug trafficking and money laundering. 

While he was serving time over there, Noriega was convicted of killing two political opponents during his rule. 

Technically, he has been sentenced to serve 40 years — 20 years for each death. But at 77, he may not make it through. And Panama has a law that allows people over 70 to finish their time under house arrest. 

It's an anti-climatic end for Noriega. While in the military in the 1970s and 1980s, Noriega worked closely with the CIA to target leftist movements in the region. He also started working with drug cartels to smuggle cocaine to the US. He ruled Panama as the de facto leader from 1983-1989. It was a short period, but within that time he managed to essentially transform his country into a drug-trafficking hub.

He was finally ousted in a US invasion, back in the days when the US played a close political game in the region. 

Listening to Panamanians talk about him, though, it seems that some in the country have moved on.

"This man has paid for his crimes, and it looks like he can hardly walk anymore," said retiree Hildaura Velasco, 67. "If he dies in prison, or at home, what does it matter?"

For his part, Noreiga is glad to be going home, his lawyers said. "He's very happy."