Panamanian authorities began 2021 dealing a blow to narcotrafficking, seizing more than 1 ton of cocaine in a port in the province of Colón.
Units of Panama’s National Police Intelligence Directorate, in coordination with the Office of the Prosecutor for Narcotics of Colón and Guna Yala, found 1,736.7 kilograms of cocaine in a coffee container from Guatemala, transiting through Panama and Belgium with Estonia as its final destination, Colón’s regional drug prosecutor, Eduardo Enrique Rodríguez, told Diálogo.
Rodríguez said that investigations were ongoing to identify who had access to the container, since authorities concluded that the shipment was contaminated in the Panamanian port, after being unloaded from the ship.
Criminal organizations are taking advantage of the logistics and commercial port platforms of Panama and other neighboring countries to smuggle drugs via containerized cargo, the prosecutor said.
“Contamination takes place in the port or during transport, opening the containers without authorization. In addition, [criminals] create shell companies, which also handle exports or port logistics in order to get the drug into the ports and contaminate a particular container or to hide the drug among the actual goods,” Rodríguez said.
In 2020, according to information provided by the prosecutor, authorities conducted 14 seizures in ports of Colón, seizing 4,313 kg of cocaine in containers. In total, Panamanian authorities seized more than 10.2 tons of cocaine hidden in containers from January to December, Rodríguez added.
According to figures from Panama’s Ministry of Security, Panamanian security agencies (the National Air and Naval Service, the National Border Service, and the National Police) seized 63,623 kg of cocaine and 18,141 kg of marijuana in 2020. In 2019, Panama seized close to 87 tons of drugs.
Panamanian minister of Public Security Juan Manuel Pino Forero told Diálogo that Panama’s achievements were largely due to international cooperation and the various combined operations carried out with the countries of the Southern Triangle (Colombia, Costa Rica, and the United States).
Minister Pino warned that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Panama and the countries in the region have begun to face a diversification of the activities of transnational criminal organizations, which attempt to seek alternative measures to generate income, something that could affect microtrafficking and increase crime.