So far this year, Panama has seized a minimum of 3.1 tons of drugs in at least seven operations, the National Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish), Panama’s main anti-drug institution, reported on January 26.
“During the 2021 period to date, the National Air and Naval Service, through the execution of seven operations, has seized a total of 3,139 packages [about 1 kilogram each] of illicit substances,” SENAN said in a statement.
SENAN is the Panamanian police institution that seizes the most drugs, as it carries out part of its operations at sea, a route narcotraffickers use mainly to move drugs from South America to the United States.
The latest seizure, announced on January 26, occurred on Isla Casayeta, Pearl Archipelago, on the Pacific coast of Panama, when SENAN agents found 1,344 packages of alleged cocaine in a speedboat, hidden in 31 bags.
The alleged narcotraffickers had abandoned the vessel on a beach, as they fled from the police upon being detected while moving the drugs.
However, after patrolling the location, agents managed to arrest two Colombians and one Panamanian, who were allegedly involved with the illegal shipment.
During 2020, Panamanian authorities seized a total of 84 tons of drugs, mostly cocaine, and filed charges against 3,200 people.
In 2019, authorities seized 90 tons, a record amount.
Police believe that the pandemic has not prevented cartels from increasing their production and moving it to the United States through the Caribbean.
Javier Caraballo, the country’s anti-drug prosecutor, explained in early January that narcotraffickers had decided to use the Caribbean coast of Panama to move larger amounts of drugs, replacing artisanal boats with deep-draft go-fast vessels and semisubmersibles with greater capacity.
Members of the Panamanian National Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish) guard seized packages of suspected illicit substances during a press conference at Cocolí base in Panama City, on January 26, 2021. (Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP)