Panama and the U.S. Establish Common Strategy against Transnational Threats
By Roberto López Dubois/Diálogo February 13, 2017Government representatives from Panama’s Ministry of Security, led by Minister Alexis Bethancourt, and U.S. government representatives, led by Ambassador John D. Feeley, held a high-level dialogue on security issues between the two countries on January 26th. They are scheduled to hold periodic bi-annual meetings. In a joint statement, representatives from both nations affirmed that “this is a very important step towards a shared strategy for countering transnational threats and it will serve as the basis for broader and deeper cooperation to meet these challenges together.” The authorities from both countries highlighted the need to adopt this new mechanism for dialogue in order to more fully and effectively coordinate the “vast and extensive cooperation between the Republic of Panama and the United States for confronting organized transnational crime, irregular migration, and other threats affecting the region, based on the successful programs for cooperation and shared goals that already exist,” they said in a joint statement after the meeting. The Salas-Becker Supplementary Arrangement between the United States government and Panama’s National Air-Naval Service enables cooperation to fight drug trafficking more efficiently. The United States also provides support to public law enforcement units through training on an array of topics and with equipment that makes their job more effective. After the meeting, government representatives from both nations agreed to hold certain cooperation activities and identified immediate, short-term, and long-term strategic initiatives, “that will improve our combined operational capabilities,” they reported. Both nations seek to develop a level of “coordination in their operational efforts to prevent and fight common crime and organized crime, thereby strengthening this new strategic partnership,” they stated. The meetings are meant to identify areas of common interest and to confront the different transnational criminal organizations by bolstering capabilities to enable the dismantling of the networks that support them, as well as their sources of income. During the meeting, representatives from both countries programmed and scheduled joint operations relative to the flows of irregular migrants, the fight against drug trafficking, and other types of common and transnational crime. The U.S. government representatives acknowledged the efforts Panama is making in the war against drug trafficking and organized crime. They also noted the accomplishments of Panamanian law enforcement organizations in their drug seizures, having made a record number in recent years, with more than 58 tons of drugs seized in 2015 and over 68 tons in 2016. “Our nation is grateful for any cooperation that the United States may offer us, especially in gaining necessary knowledge,” said Severino Mejía, coordinator of the Public Safety and Organized Crime Program at the University of Panama. “These global threats remain a sword of Damocles hanging over us; they affect us all, and that is why we must strengthen and shield ourselves, first through an exchange of timely and accurate information in a single language that will move us on to a comprehensive effort in the fight against these threats.” A common strategy opens up new opportunities for organizations devoted to fighting international crime in the region.