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Panamá and Colombia Cooperate to Fight Drug Traffickers and Improve Border Security

By Dialogo
November 26, 2014




President Juan Carlos Verela Rodriguez visited the border of Panama and Colombia November 21 to celebrate State Border Service (Senafront)’s sixth anniversary, as well as the graduation of 40 anti-narcoterrorism officers, 35 border patrol agents and nine combat swimmers.

“Each and every one of you are key to the development of our national security strategy, crime prevention and combating serious international crime,” he said.

In their mission, the graduates are also likely to find themselves working in cooperation with the security forces of Colombia. Their collaborative efforts have led to multiple victories against drug trafficking along the border.

For example, in two separate join operations in September, security forces from the two countries and the United States seized more than 800 kilos of cocaine from vessels in Panamanian waters in the Pacific Ocean. About a week later, on September 25, Colombian Anti-Narcotics Police, the Colombian Navy and agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cooperating through Operation MARTILLO arrested 13 alleged drug traffickers and seized 740 kilos of cocaine from a ship in Caribbean waters off the coast of Panamá. Law enforcement officials transported the suspected narco-traffickers, who are all Colombian nationals, to Florida to face federal drug trafficking charges.

Panamá and Colombia have been cooperating closely to fight narco-trafficking, improve security along the border the two countries share, and conduct joint training exercises for nearly four years.

In February 2011, Colombia’s Minister of Defense at the time, Rodrigo Rivera, met with then-Secretary of Public Security of Panamá, José Raúl Mulino, to sign a Binational Border Security Plan. Rivera and Murino agreed to develop coordinated and synchronized operations along the border, to strengthen both countries’ ability to respond to combat the trafficking of drugs, humans, and weapons.

Close ties include joint training exercises


To underscore the close ties between the two countries, Panamá was the first country Colombian Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón visited during his September 2013 tour of Central America and the Caribbean. During his visit, which included a meeting with Panamanian Minister of Public Security José Raúl Mulino, Pinzón said he was in Panamá to “strengthen the treaties on cooperation and exchanges of information, and to increase the training levels for members of the Armed Forces.”

Collaboration between the two countries is helping security forces combat drug trafficking by the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Force of Colombia (FARC) and other criminal organizations.

“Cooperation, exchanges of information and the use of intelligence between the two countries is important if we are to continue to strike hard blows against these outlaws,” said Frédéric Massé, director of the Research and Special Projects Center at the Externado University of Colombia.

Joint training exercises are also part of the improved cooperation between the two countries.

For instance, in February, the Colombian Air Force (FAC) and the Panamanian National Air Service (Senam) conducted a week-long aerial exercise in combatting drug trafficking, called Pancol I-Binational Air Interdiction Exercise. Other countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Brazil and Perú have previously conducted similar training exercises. The goal of these drills is to train to fight drug trafficking and to maintain a uniform aeronautics language among the air forces of different countries, to ensure maximum effectiveness. In addition to conducting joint training exercises, the Binational Border Security Plan calls for Panamá and Colombia to work cooperation to protect indigenous communities that live along the border the two countries share from explosives used by the FARC, and to protect them forced recruitment into the ranks of the terrorist group.

Successes by security forces


Improved training has helped security forces from Panamá and Colombia capture a number of drug traffickers since the two countries agreed to the binational strategy.

For example, in October 2013, police in Panamá captured YamilMosquera Horado, also known as “Alexis” -- the alleged leader of the 57th Front of the FARC. They captured him when he and other alleged FARC operatives tried to flee from Panamanian border officers.

“Our units at the check point detected the presence of 4 or 5 persons who, when they were ordered to halt, opened fire on our units,” said Panamanian National Border Service Director Frank Alexis Abrego. “Our units responded with gunfire, encircled the suspects, advanced on their position and located Alexis.”

In addition to capturing Alexis and the other suspects, police seized about 100 kilograms of cocaine and a rifle.

A military-police operation kills FARC leader ‘Silver’


In another victory, the Colombian Air Force, in cooperation with the Colombian National Police (PNC) attacked a FARC campsite and killed Virgilio Antonio Vidal Mora, who was known as “Silver,” during a security operation near the Panamanian border in August 2013. Security forces also killed two other FARC operatives and recovered 15 rifles, El Tiempo
reported.

Silver was responsible for trafficking drugs and weapons for the FARC along the Colombia-Panamá border. Intelligence gathered by the PNC revealed the location of the campsite, according to Maj. Gen. al Guillermo León León, commander of the Colombian Air Force.

“In this operation, which was performed jointly with the National Police, we were able to gather very accurate intelligence, and execute a very well calculated operation using FAC planes, with the result that Silver was neutralized,” León said. .

Silver, who was also wanted by Panamanian authorities, had three Colombian arrest warrants pending for rebellion, kidnapping, terrorism, causing personal injuries, and murder. The United States Department of Justice had also submitted a request for his extradition. The arrests and killings “of significant criminals are definitely the results of agreements between the two countries as part of bilateral cooperation in the fight against threats posted by transnational crime,” Masse said. “Security forces, government agencies and civilian organizations must cooperate and periodically review and evaluate security threats to create preventive mechanisms in order to protect their citizens’ security.”



President Juan Carlos Verela Rodriguez visited the border of Panama and Colombia November 21 to celebrate State Border Service (Senafront)’s sixth anniversary, as well as the graduation of 40 anti-narcoterrorism officers, 35 border patrol agents and nine combat swimmers.

“Each and every one of you are key to the development of our national security strategy, crime prevention and combating serious international crime,” he said.

In their mission, the graduates are also likely to find themselves working in cooperation with the security forces of Colombia. Their collaborative efforts have led to multiple victories against drug trafficking along the border.

For example, in two separate join operations in September, security forces from the two countries and the United States seized more than 800 kilos of cocaine from vessels in Panamanian waters in the Pacific Ocean. About a week later, on September 25, Colombian Anti-Narcotics Police, the Colombian Navy and agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cooperating through Operation MARTILLO arrested 13 alleged drug traffickers and seized 740 kilos of cocaine from a ship in Caribbean waters off the coast of Panamá. Law enforcement officials transported the suspected narco-traffickers, who are all Colombian nationals, to Florida to face federal drug trafficking charges.

Panamá and Colombia have been cooperating closely to fight narco-trafficking, improve security along the border the two countries share, and conduct joint training exercises for nearly four years.

In February 2011, Colombia’s Minister of Defense at the time, Rodrigo Rivera, met with then-Secretary of Public Security of Panamá, José Raúl Mulino, to sign a Binational Border Security Plan. Rivera and Murino agreed to develop coordinated and synchronized operations along the border, to strengthen both countries’ ability to respond to combat the trafficking of drugs, humans, and weapons.

Close ties include joint training exercises


To underscore the close ties between the two countries, Panamá was the first country Colombian Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzón visited during his September 2013 tour of Central America and the Caribbean. During his visit, which included a meeting with Panamanian Minister of Public Security José Raúl Mulino, Pinzón said he was in Panamá to “strengthen the treaties on cooperation and exchanges of information, and to increase the training levels for members of the Armed Forces.”

Collaboration between the two countries is helping security forces combat drug trafficking by the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Force of Colombia (FARC) and other criminal organizations.

“Cooperation, exchanges of information and the use of intelligence between the two countries is important if we are to continue to strike hard blows against these outlaws,” said Frédéric Massé, director of the Research and Special Projects Center at the Externado University of Colombia.

Joint training exercises are also part of the improved cooperation between the two countries.

For instance, in February, the Colombian Air Force (FAC) and the Panamanian National Air Service (Senam) conducted a week-long aerial exercise in combatting drug trafficking, called Pancol I-Binational Air Interdiction Exercise. Other countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Brazil and Perú have previously conducted similar training exercises. The goal of these drills is to train to fight drug trafficking and to maintain a uniform aeronautics language among the air forces of different countries, to ensure maximum effectiveness. In addition to conducting joint training exercises, the Binational Border Security Plan calls for Panamá and Colombia to work cooperation to protect indigenous communities that live along the border the two countries share from explosives used by the FARC, and to protect them forced recruitment into the ranks of the terrorist group.

Successes by security forces


Improved training has helped security forces from Panamá and Colombia capture a number of drug traffickers since the two countries agreed to the binational strategy.

For example, in October 2013, police in Panamá captured YamilMosquera Horado, also known as “Alexis” -- the alleged leader of the 57th Front of the FARC. They captured him when he and other alleged FARC operatives tried to flee from Panamanian border officers.

“Our units at the check point detected the presence of 4 or 5 persons who, when they were ordered to halt, opened fire on our units,” said Panamanian National Border Service Director Frank Alexis Abrego. “Our units responded with gunfire, encircled the suspects, advanced on their position and located Alexis.”

In addition to capturing Alexis and the other suspects, police seized about 100 kilograms of cocaine and a rifle.

A military-police operation kills FARC leader ‘Silver’


In another victory, the Colombian Air Force, in cooperation with the Colombian National Police (PNC) attacked a FARC campsite and killed Virgilio Antonio Vidal Mora, who was known as “Silver,” during a security operation near the Panamanian border in August 2013. Security forces also killed two other FARC operatives and recovered 15 rifles, El Tiempo
reported.

Silver was responsible for trafficking drugs and weapons for the FARC along the Colombia-Panamá border. Intelligence gathered by the PNC revealed the location of the campsite, according to Maj. Gen. al Guillermo León León, commander of the Colombian Air Force.

“In this operation, which was performed jointly with the National Police, we were able to gather very accurate intelligence, and execute a very well calculated operation using FAC planes, with the result that Silver was neutralized,” León said. .

Silver, who was also wanted by Panamanian authorities, had three Colombian arrest warrants pending for rebellion, kidnapping, terrorism, causing personal injuries, and murder. The United States Department of Justice had also submitted a request for his extradition. The arrests and killings “of significant criminals are definitely the results of agreements between the two countries as part of bilateral cooperation in the fight against threats posted by transnational crime,” Masse said. “Security forces, government agencies and civilian organizations must cooperate and periodically review and evaluate security threats to create preventive mechanisms in order to protect their citizens’ security.”
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