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PANAMA

Many indifferent as Noriega returns

PANAMA CITY — Manuel Noriega is back in his Panamanian homeland after nearly 22 years, sitting in a prison cell in a country he ruled as a personal fiefdom until U.S. troops invaded and hauled him off to a Florida jail.

A few protesters gathered outside El Renacer prison as the 77-year-old former general was spirited inside Sunday night after an extradition flight from France, yet the overwhelming mood among his countrymen seemed to be indifference.

While some people banged pots and honked car horns in Panama City’s downtown in a symbolic gesture of disdain for Noriega, most Panamanians on the capital’s crowded streets were out holiday shopping.

Officials escorted Noriega home on an Iberia airlines’ jet that touched down at Tocumen International Airport Sunday afternoon in a flight that began in Paris and made a stop in Madrid.

Noriega, who served 17 years in U.S. prison for drug trafficking and nearly two years in France for a money-laundering conviction, has begun serving three 20-year sentences in Panama for the killings of political opponents in the 1980s.

Officials whisked him into prison without letting anyone see him, a move that irritated some of the protesters outside.

“We are disappointed at the excessive security that kept us from seeing the prisoner,” said Aurelio Barria, a member of the old opposition to Noriega.

“Why not let him be seen? What are they hiding? We want to see him handcuffed in a cell,” Mr. Barria told the TVN news channel.

Later, officials took journalists into the prison to watch from a distance as Noriega, accompanied by guards while sitting in a wheelchair, checked possessions he had brought with him from France.

President Ricardo Martinelli said Noriega “should pay for the damage and horror committed against the people of Panama.”

MEXICO

Troops kill 11 gunmen near U.S. border

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican army said Monday that 11 gunmen were killed and a soldier wounded in a shootout just south of the Texas border.

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