Panama Commits To Fight Against Drug Trafficking

first_img Panamanian authorities have declared war on drug trafficking and organized crime. Officials carried out the largest narcotics seizure of the year earlier this month when the National Naval Air Service of Panama (SENAN) captured a speed boat that crashed into a seafront house in the city of Colón, on the Caribbean Sea. SENAN officials found more than 2,400 kilos (5,280 pounds) of cocaine on the vessel. A Colombian national was arrested, but the other three crew members on the boat managed to escape. “It doesn’t seem coincidental to me that north of Veraguas [155 miles west of Panama City] there are 15 people in custody for having links to drug trafficking,” Minister of Public Safety José Raúl Mulino told reporters, according to EFE. “This shipment [contained] ski masks, knives and military ammunition apparently for these people.” Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said the region needs a strategic counter-narcotics policy, during a summit of the Central American Integration System (SICA) earlier this month in El Salvador. “Many people die unnecessarily due to drugs, the same drugs that prompt corruption and discourage investment,” said Ricardo Martinelli, as reported by the Panamanian daily La Prensa. In 2009, Panamanian law enforcement agencies confiscated 52.1 tons of cocaine and 1.7 tons of marijuana, according to the Public Ministry. Officials also said US$11 million in cash was seized, US$3.2 million more than the previous year. Javier Caraballo, the country’s drug prosecutor, said authorities have identified Mexican criminal organizations in Panama that are working with Mexico-based drug cartels. But he added the seizures by Panamanian officials have decreased the illegal activities of national and international criminal organizations. “We have seen cases in which almost all the people apprehended, linked to these shipments, are Mexicans that don’t have a permanent residence in the country,” said Caraballo, as reported by EFE. “However, they arrived [in the country] to organize drug trafficking.” An undercover agent from the Judicial Investigations Directorate (DIJ) of the National Police told that criminals from Latin American countries are also in Panama to supervise their illegal businesses. But local law enforcement agencies are trying to prevent them from establishing a presence. “Guatemalans, Hondurans and Colombians are coming [here] to control and oversee their operations on Panamanian territory,” said the narcotics agent, who only spoke on condition of anonymity because her life could be in jeopardy if her identity were revealed. “Now it has become more difficult for them [drug traffickers] to infiltrate ‘agents,’ but they continue to look for new strategies.” The source said that drug seizures in 2009 reflect increased efforts by counter-narcotic agencies and the naval air bases monitoring the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. “The new strategies and operational exercises and coordination with international organizations make drug traffickers find new ways and routes to traffic narcotics,” she said. By Dialogo July 29, 2010last_img

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