In the first half of 2021, Panama will launch a new strategy to fight narcotrafficking and other illegal activities in the region. To that end, the Panamanian security forces will join their efforts under a single operational center that will combat crime as a united front.
The National Police, the National Border Service (SENAFRONT, in Spanish), and the National Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish) will become part of the Regional Center for Aeronaval Operations (CROAN, in Spanish), which will be located at SENAN’s General Command Base. The center aims to increase the capabilities of the Panamanian forces, as well as to serve as a platform for coordination and information exchange for the region, Panamanian Minister of Public Security Juan Manuel Pino told Diálogo.
“All this group […] will increase the capabilities and efficiency for coordinating and executing joint combined operations to fight transnational organized crime networks, to interdict illicit trafficking, to control illegal fishing, and to execute humanitarian aid operations, as well as search and rescue missions,” Pino said.
Pino specified that CROAN will operate around the clock with personnel from the Panamanian Public Force, under SENAN leadership, and will have different sections. Among these, the Joint Planning section will be responsible for receiving and evaluating intelligence and then planning and allocating resources to carry out the missions. “Likewise, it will have a Monitoring, Command, and Control section, which will be in charge of ensuring the correct execution of what was planned and providing immediate assistance with the Panamanian Public Force’s available means,” Pino said.
On December 10, 2020, U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), visited the CROAN facility and said that the center will receive U.S. support.
“I’m impressed with the technology, capabilities, professionalism, and experience of the personnel at the operations center,” said Adm. Faller at a virtual press conference, following his visit. “Panama’s security is important to the security of the region and of the United States, and we are very grateful for the leadership that Panama has taken. We respect their experience, and we will partner with them on whatever they request of us.”
According to Panamanian newspaper Panamá América, Pino said that the United States will provide support with communication, technology, and security equipment; with training and advice to Panamanian units; and by donating speedboats. The minister told Diálogo that the center will also benefit from the support of SOUTHCOM’s Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South).
“We are working on protocols for information exchange with JIATF South, for better coordination in operations to fight transnational organized crime networks. In addition, Panama will permanently maintain an official liaison at the JIATF South headquarters in Key West, Florida, to facilitate communication and coordination,” the minister added.