Martinelli Wants to Convince Panamanian Gang Members to Leave Crime

By Dialogo
September 01, 2011

On August 29, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli announced that he will meet with gang members to try to convince them to “leave that evil occupation.”

“I’m going to start meeting with gang members (…), because I’m going to convince them that they have to start to leave that evil occupation,” Martinelli said in an interview with TVN-2 television, without specifying with whom he will meet or when.

“Why am I going to be afraid of them?” said Martinelli, who affirmed that the rise in drug seizures in the country has led many drug-trafficking gangs to diversify their criminal activities in order to finance themselves.

More than 400 homicides have been recorded in Panama this year, a third of them believed to be gang-related. Estimates are that around 225 gangs operate in the country.

The first known gang in Panama appeared in the 1980s and was called “El clan agua” [“The Water Clan”], since it operated on a street in the capital’s El Chorrillo neighborhood that flooded frequently.

Since then, “El Pentágono” [“The Pentagon”], “Tiny Toon,” “Los hijos de Dios” [“The Children of God”], “Los Chuquies” [“The Chuckies”], “Los Chacales” [“The Jackals”], and “Bagdad” have become a headache for the authorities.