Pressure on the government to sack police chief Gustavo Pérez de la Ossa because of his unsavory past as a close Noriega confidant and taking American civilians, among which various journalists, hostage during the US invasion - a violation of the Geneva Convention - is mounting and the Bananama Republic is glad to help.
We just find it very hard to believe that President Martinelli, who promised to select the best people for official positions and leave cronyism and nepotism behind, hasn't been able to find anyone more suitable to head the National Police. We also fail to understand how someone who sees no problem with taking journalists hostage is supposed to make our country safer. Pérez needs to go. If he doesn't have the class to resign himself, he needs to be sacked.
According to Jaime Abad, ex-director of the PTJ (the former Panamanian equivalent of the FBI) said today that Martinelli knew about the morbid skeletons in Pérez' closet but insisted on appointing him anyway. Abad further claims that since Pérez was formally discharged without honors after the invasion, for that reason alone he legally can't work as a police chief today.
Out of the woodwork came also Tomás Cabál, who says he witnessed the hostage taking operation at the Marriott Hotel at the time. The New York Times also gave an eyewitness account of events at the time:
''We've been ordered to take hostages,'' the gunman shouted when the reporters asked him why he had seized them.
In the gilded lobby of the luxury hotel, Panama City's finest, seven other gunmen had herded together about 80 guests and staff members. They were forced to lie face down with their arms outstretched.
''Who's American?'' several of the gunmen shouted at once. ''Americans over there.'' The gunmen pushed a group of 11 into an adjacent section of the lobby.
(...) ''If a lot of Panamanians have died, we can kill you,'' he said quietly. ''Don't for a minute think we won't.'' Another gunman, wearing a red Miller Beer T-shirt with the logo ''American Made,'' then herded the hostages into a single line with their backs against the wall.
Cabal also said today that Gustavo Pérez maintained a close relationship with Manuel Noriega, confirming an earlier report in El Panama America. That is further evidenced by the fact that Pérez took the initiative for the so-called Manifesto of Rio Hato, a sort of oath of allegiance by over 200 members of the Panama Defense Forces to Noriega which was published in La Critica in 1988, together with a photo of Pérez.
President Martinelli has so far, true to form, not given an inch. Thursday he responded by email that he has full confidence in Gustavo Pérez who, Martinelli says, is doing an excellent job as police chief. Minister of the Presidency Demetrio Papadimitriu also said that "there will be no changes in the National Police".
Our new pseudo-Attorney General Giusseppe Bonissi, taking a pro-active approach, said that he will wait for the paperwork and then give it to a prosecutor to further investigate whatever happened back then.
It looks like Martinelli and his crowd will put their heels in the sand and stick with policy and a police chief that nobody wants. After the vulgar show of sacking the Attorney General this is yet another example that Martinelli lacks the qualities to be a statesman as he clings to his mistakes like a spoiled child.
UPDATE: According to El Panama America, under the Geneva Convention Gustavo Pérez has to be tried....
I understand that there are reputable accounts of civilians and journalists that were taken hostage for a short and confusing time during the invasion, but where is the evidence/witnesses that tie Gustavo Perez to this suposed war crime? Are you sure he was even in Panama during this period?
Well, he was already kicked out of the force because of his involvement in 1990. It’s not that he denied it or anything. And now it seems Martinelli knew about it already when he appointed the guy.
Para Jose: Si. No solo estaba ahi, fungia como jefe de operaciones. Yes, he was in Panama. He was chief of operations. But, don’t take my word for it. Read the “Orden del Dia”, were he was fired, with no right to return to the National Guard, for life. Look at the reason his superior officers gave. Taking hostages. No more powerfull endictment than that. Enough to get you hung-up from a pole by a rope at any War Crime tribunal. If you interested, read article 2, paragraph 2.1 and 2.2. Article 34 is also a great read while sipping a soda as we await (better grab a pillow) to see if it going to take a direct aproach to the Convention Hqs; or is the prosecutor in Panama going to try to hide it under the proverbial pillow at his house. BTW, the crime of protecting a war criminal; is as a “grave Crime” as is the crime itself. Sort of leave some one like me dizzy, with the image of Martinelli been dragged to an executioner’s gallow, while still wearing the presidential sachel of Panama.