Great story in The Panama News, about Vision Airlines which, in conjunction with Panama Aircraft Rental & Sales, will supposedly be flying in and out of Panama's Rio Hato airport with budget flights to a myriad of destinations.
Vision Airlines, however, is mostly known for its torture and kidnap flights as part of the secret "rendition" program of the CIA. Explains Eric Jackson in The Panama News:
"Acor, the principal owner and CEO of Vision Airlines and also another company called Premier Aircraft Management, between 2002 and 2009 used to shift titular ownership of at least a couple of Boeing 737s between the two companies, and the changing home bases and flight itineraries of the planes was, shall we say, interesting. In 2008, part of the cover was lifted off of Vision Airlines in a lawsuit filed by current former employees, until a week later the court file was ordered sealed. Acor, a substantial but not in the scheme of things fabulously rich Republican contributor, was through Vision and his other companies using those 737s for "extraordinary rendition" flights, the clandestine transfers of prisoners to jurisdictions where they would be held in secret and tortured in the hope of getting useful information, by the George W. Bush administration. The class action lawsuit alleged that the company pocketed hazardous duty pay that was owed to the employees."
Torture flights are of course one thing, but the picture would not be complete, Panama-wise, without a narco element. And thus enters the scene one Carlos Arango Duque, the late owner and founder of Panama Aircraft Rental & Sales. Arango also owned the Contadora Hotel and a myriad of other businesses in Panama. He became infamous on the island of Contadora for his blatantly obvious money laundering, suspicious boating activities and his thuggish behavior towards competitors of his hotel business. And then his plane crashed with a big bang, which also ended a DEA investigation into his activities, a DEA source told us at the time.
The crash - never fully investigated and the whole case blacked out by local media, of which the owners were more often than not engaged in business deals with Arango - a sort of set the standard for Panama Aircraft Rental & Sales' abysmal accident record. The Panama News lists a number of cases from planes crashing to propellers flying around on Bocas airport:
"Isn't Panama Aircraft Rental & Sales that company that had two accidents in one week back in February of 2008? In the first, on the 16th of that month, a Cessna 206 taking French tourists from Albrook to Coiba crashed on Isla Cebaco, killing one passenger and injuring the others on board. The second mishap, on the 23rd of that month, injured three passengers waiting in the Bocas airport terminal when a propeller flew off one of their Seneca II aircraft that was taxiing on the way to the runway and went bouncing and smashing through the airport, setting off a small secondary explosion that sent metal shrapnel flying?"
So, dear reader, are you as anxious as we are to get in on one of those budget narco-torture flights to the new Rio Hato airport?
And our biggest question: Where fits our C̶o̶l̶o̶m̶b̶i̶a̶n̶ ̶a̶r̶m̶s̶ ̶t̶r̶a̶f̶f̶i̶c̶k̶e̶r̶ Minister of Tourism, Salamo Shamah, in this wacky scheme?