WASHINGTON — The 50 pounds of cocaine U.S. officials said they found last month in a house used by ousted Gen. Manuel A. Noriega turned out to be tamales wrapped in banana leaves, the Pentagon admitted today.
"It's bonding material," said a Defense Department spokeswoman, Army Maj. Kathy Wood. "It's a substance they use in voodoo rituals."
On Dec. 22, Army Col. Mike Snell, the commander of a U.S. infantry task force, told reporters that his troops had found 50 pounds of cocaine in a house frequented by Noriega at Ft. Amador.
The two-story building was inhabited by a Brazilian woman believed to be Noriega's "sorceress" and became known among U.S. soldiers as the "witch house."
Snell said some of the substance was found wrapped in banana leaves inside a freezer. "We're sure it's cocaine," he was quoted as saying at the time.