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Colombia and Panama Reinforce Shared Fight against Trafficking in Arms and Drugs

By Dialogo
July 16, 2009

BOGOTA, 14 July 2009 (AFP) - Colombian and Panamanian authorities analyzed their border security situation on Monday and agreed to intensify joint police activity to combat trafficking in arms and drugs, as well as to combat money laundering through financial institutions. “In coordination with the Colombian government, we are taking bilateral measures to control the situation,” the Panamanian Justice and Interior Minister, José Raúl Mulino, told reporters following a meeting in Bogotá with the Colombian Interior Minister, Fabio Valencia. After indicating that seizures of cocaine originating in Colombia were higher in the first half of 2009 than in the same period last year, the Panamanian official emphasized that drugs are being exchanged for arms throughout the region, not only in Panama. Mulino affirmed that his country is combatting the illegal armed groups that are active along the border, and he recalled that four members of the FARC guerrilla group who had been captured by the National Border Service were deported to Colombia just last Friday. “We’ve made a contribution doing this, and we’ll continue to work together for this purpose,” the Panamanian minister added. The official called for “the identification of points in common in the uninhabited border area where the state does not have a presence,” in order to combat the illegal armed groups in a more targeted way. The meeting between the two ministers preceded a meeting between the director of the Colombian police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, and his Panamanian counterpart, Gustavo Pérez. At the end of the police chiefs’ meeting, Naranjo said that the authorities are moving forward on operations aimed especially at capturing Gilberto Torres (alias ‘The Calf’), “who is believed to be the liaison between the FARC and Colombian drug traffickers for allowing the entry of Colombian drugs into Central America.” “Torres, the leader of the FARC’s Front 57, is using the Colombian-Panamanian border region fundamentally for trafficking in cocaine, consolidating his position with extortion and kidnapping. We are concentrating on this terrorist in particular,” the official noted.