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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Air-Conditioned Vestiges of an Empire

One end of the Tunnel

When I told my father recently about my morning jogs up Ancón Hill—located in Panama City’s Quarry Heights, former headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command—he emailed back to say that his own father, director of intelligence for SOUTHCOM from 1971-76, used to receive visits from Manuel Noriega in the Ancón Hill “Tunnel” during the latter’s service as director of military intelligence under Omar Torrijos.

Not known for my attentiveness to scenery, I asked what tunnel. He responded: The thing dug into the side of the hill.

Indeed, ascending the hill the following morning, I noted a cement edifice on my left—one end of the U.S. bunker, abandoned in accordance with the withdrawal of SOUTHCOM from Quarry Heights in the late 1990s.

Located not far from the Tunnel is the former house of U.S. General Marc Cisneros, a key player in the 1989 U.S. war on Panama to dislodge Noriega, who had by this time risen to the position of dictator and whose decades of cooperation with the CIA failed to avert his demise via “Operation Just Cause”. The house is currently inhabited by a Panamanian woman who drew my attention to the whirring machinery 10 meters from her front door as an indication that the bunker continues to be air conditioned, and who asked me why, if nuclear holocaust were visited upon the region, U.S. military commanders would wish to prolong their existence three years inside a tunnel. Aside from air conditioning, the Tunnel is reportedly equipped with other luxuries such as decontamination chambers, a church, and an SUV-sized paper shredder.

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Italy battles Islamic caliphate

Oppressed populations around the world acquired a new rival on Wednesday with the announcement by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of his campaign to “Free Lampedusa” within 48-60 hours.

What the Sicilian island requires freeing from: thousands of migrants, primarily arriving from North Africa.

Why it requires freeing: residents are not pleased, and Berlusconi sympathizes. (So much so that he has spontaneously purchased a villa on the island.)

The migrants are being transferred to refugee camps on the Italian mainland, which has generated unrest among certain sectors of population of south Italy who feel that the freedom of Lampedusa will occur at their expense.

In this video below, for example, from minute 1.22-1.34 the south Italian gentleman in the red hat explains that “since the state doesn’t do shit” he has taken it upon himself to capture refugees who have escaped from the makeshift camps—in this case, the two darker men being herded in front of him.

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