Mireya and the narcos

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Has viola'o las reglas del dominó
que dicen que el mirón es de palo
Chico malo y ahora
Hoy te van a castigar.
Es que te anda buscando
Un carro de antena larga
Lleno e' gente, lente oscuro
Los de la seguridad.
Te andan buscando unos tipos
Que cuando eran niños su mamá no los quería
su papá tampoco y ahora que son adultos viven repartiendo bofetá’

Te están buscando - Rubén Blades

Various confusing tales are being spun in the media about a shoot-out outside ex-president Mireya Moscoso's house in Panama City. La Prensa has it that it was an "attempted robbery" of Arnulfo Escalona, a former minister who was followed by three individuals on motorcycles to Moscoso's house when things got violent. In other (social) media there is speculation that the three Colombians attempted to kidnap Escalona.


However, none of these stories make any sense. Kidnappings by Colombians are done by forcing the victim's car to stop by blocking it with usually two other cars, dragging the victim out and taking him away in one of those cars. How were these three men going to take Escalona away, on the buddy seat of their motorcycle?

Similarly, it is difficult to understand why two or three Colombians would fly to Panama only to rob a former minister.

So, what was it? The entire sequence reeks of an attempted assassination. That's how sicarios operate, from motorcycles, shooting their victim and then racing away. The motorcycles provide speed and flexibility, the possibility of speeding past traffic jams and through areas where the police cars can't follow them.

Given the fact that Escalona and Moscoso reportedly both drive identical white Lexus cars, the intended target may have been either him or her. It all has very much the appearance of an attempted drug-related settling of scores (or debts) that went awry.


So, then, what is it that connects Mireya Moscoso with the drug trade? Here's what we know.

There was, for example, the case of narco kingpin Rayo Montaño. Investigations by the media as well as the public ministry revealed a network of "business deals"and other ties between Montaño, then president Mireya Moscoso, Supreme Court judge Alberto Cigarruista, then mayor of Panama City Juan Carlos Navarro and Winston Spadafora, at the time minister of Government and Justice.

Colombian soccer player Freddy Rincón, while imprisoned in Brasil, alleged that Mireya Moscoso proposed him to launder drug money through Nautipesca, a Panamanian sports fishing and yachting chandler that was later closed down.

As usual in Panama, the scandal died down without anyone being seriously investigated.

The same can be said about yet another narco-scandal that involved Mireya's inner circle or, as it is known locally, the Clan of Chitré. Halfway the year 2000, the United States indicted six individuals on drug trafficking charges. Among them was a personal friend of Moscoso, one Oscar Osorio, who was in turn a top adviser of then minister of Health, José Teran, who in turn at the time was reportedly Moscoso's lover. Also indicted war Blas "Toto" Velasquez, who was not only a high-up airport official at the time, but is also a known front man of Winston Spadafora. Spadafora was at the time minister of Government and Justice and moved on to become a Supreme Court magistrate - and Moscoso's next boyfriend. He is/was deeply involved in shadowy deals with another known Colombian/Panamanian drug money launderer, one Jean Figali.

The American charges accused the six of smuggling XTC pills from the Netherlands to Panama and then onward to the US. The smuggling operation included heroin as well, allegedly obtained in Colombia. In charge was Dutch "Godmother" Thea Moear, who had long been one of the heads of Holland's biggest drug cartel before semi-retiring to Panama. A DEA undercover operation blew the entire thing up, although most of the drugs were never found. Although Moscoso was not among those indicted, the US prosecutors hinted at other Panamanian officials being investigated, reported Dutch newspaper het Parool:

Osorio, Moear and Brusamolin were part of a circle of friends, that consisted of, among others, the Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso and minister of Justice Winston Spadafora. Therefore, it would be in Panama's interest to let the case die away.

Asked if the US in this case, apart from Osorio (among other things the most important advisor of minister of Health Teran) is looking into the activities of other Panamanian officials, Gregorie replies: "I can't answer that question. That is to say, I can, but I won't."

The authorities in Florida suspect Moear, Brusamolin, Osorio and a couple of others that they were planning to regularly smuggle MDMA (XTC) and heroin to the US. The stuff would be transported from Holland to Panama first, and then by air from Panama to Miami. An undercover agent of the DEA established contact with Osorio in 1997 already. The agent, Danny Moritz, posed, according to US documents, as a 'member of an east-coast criminal family'; Osorio was 'part of a drug trafficking and money laundring organization'.

Thea Moear, Oscar Osorio and Antonio Brusamolin were the only ones who were actually prosecuted and convicted in Panama.

Winston Spadafora has since lost his job as a magistrate and his visa to the United States.

José Teran is now Panama's ambassador to...... the Netherlands.


Although none of the above implicates Mireya Moscoso directly in drug trafficking, there is more than enough reason to suspect that she may have been involved in either a drug deal or a money laundering deal where things did not work out as the Colombian counterparts had envisioned.

Further food for such suspicions is that Moscoso's tenure as Panama's president was characterized by bouts of aggravated kleptomania. She spent about a $1000 daily on jewelry, expensive alcoholic beverages, perfumes and other such luxury items - and that is only what could be easily proven. Many characterized her government as a "locust plague" that descended on Panama's public coffers and grazed everything it could. She stole a beachfront property from the State that has since fallen in a state of neglect. Her current "toy boy" is Arnulfo Escalona, on whom she spends considerable amounts of money for presents like boats, a helicopter and Gucci wallets - all paid for by her fortune that is of unexplained origin but certainly not consistent with her income as a president or someone who just owns a coffee farm, as she does. We would readily believe it when it turned out that she stole money that wasn't hers from people who resolve such disputes with guns.

Of the three Colombians who were involved in the shoot-out, one died and two have been captured. The police is supposedly investigating and will no doubt try to extract the truth from the two captives about the purpose of their mission. If the public will ever be informed remains, given the fact that Moscoso and Escalona belong to the same political party currently in power, very much to be seen.

So, in the meantime, why not enjoy a song that sounds just, so, what shall we call it, appropriate?

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