Panamanian security forces continue to deal serious blows to narcotrafficking, seizing more than 20 tons of drugs, including cocaine and marijuana, in operations carried out between January and early March 2021. In the five most recent operations, most carried out in Panamanian ports, authorities were able to stop the shipment of 10 tons of cocaine.
On March 6, the Panamanian National Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish) reported seizing 1,500 packages of illicit substances, weighing about 1 kilogram each, in the PSA Rodman Port terminal, located on the western side of the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Authorities later confirmed that the drug was cocaine.
According to the press release, SENAN units found the drugs during port control procedures for illicit maritime traffic. The cocaine was hidden inside a container that carried wood coming from Costa Rica, transiting through Panama, then Antwerp, Belgium, with Ennore, India, as a final destination.
On March 2, SENAN reported seizing 797 kg of cocaine in Cristóbal Port, in Colón province. Agents found the drug inside 23 briefcases that were hidden in a container coming from Canada and bound for India.
In another important operation on February 22 in a port of Colón, agents of the Panamanian National Police and the Attorney General’s Office found five briefcases containing 3,665 packages of drugs inside a container, the Panamanian Ministry of Public Security said on Twitter. The container, coming from Turbo, Colombia, was bound for Belgium. The Ministry of Public Security told Diálogo that the packages contained 4,200 kg of cocaine.
That same day, SENAN indicated in a press release that its units had intercepted a suspicious speedboat south of Punta Burica, Chiquirí province. The crew, three Costa Rican nationals, were carrying 2,344 kg of cocaine. The operation, the naval institution said, was made possible thanks to strategic coordination by the Regional Center for Aeronaval Operations. The new center, which began operations in early 2021, integrates elements from all of Panama’s security forces and serves as an information sharing platform for the region.
A few days earlier, on February 15, agents of the National Police and Office of the Prosecutor for Narcotics of Colón and Guna Yala found 1,818 kg of cocaine inside two cargo containers in a port of Colón. The containers came from Paramaribo, Suriname, and were bound for Antwerp, Belgium, the Panamanian newspaper Crítica reported.
“Drug trafficking in the form of ‘containerized cargo,’ or inside containers, has become one of the most common ways in which criminal organizations send drugs from one country to another,” SENAN said in a statement. “Panama, due to the maritime traffic it maintains and the number of ports it has, does not escape this reality.” The naval institution indicated that in the first two months of 2021, 14 drug seizure operations were carried out in ports of Colón alone.
Drug trafficking in the form of ‘containerized cargo,’ or inside containers, has become one of the most common ways in which criminal organizations send drugs from one country to another,” SENAN.
Panamanian Minister of Public Security Juan Manuel Pino told Diálogo that, from January 1 to March 10, 2021, authorities had seized more than 20.7 tons of drugs throughout the country, exceeding the 19.7 tons seized during the same period in 2020.
“The increase in seizures is due to the strengthening of information exchange channels between security forces and to alliances with cooperating countries in the region, through dynamic joint operations,” Pino said.