The U.S. Embassy in Panama presented the Ministry of Public Security with a donation of 63 Jeep J8 all-terrain vehicles and $3 million in spare parts at the National Border Service’s (SENAFRONT) facilities in Panama City.
The equipment, totaling $8 million and donated in May, will be used for counter-terrorism, counternarcotics, organized crime, and maritime and border operations in difficult-to-access areas.
These vehicles will be distributed to two law enforcement and relief forces. Twenty-eight vehicles will go to the SENAFRONT and 10 will be transferred to the National Naval Air Service (SENAN).
The U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation had already donated 25 J8s and several spare parts to the SENAFRONT in March. These vehicles are operating in different areas of the country, more specifically in the province of Darién, bordering Colombia, where the SENAFRONT is most active with operations to combat organized crime and protect the population.
“With the J8s we have a presence in all our areas of operations; in Darién, in the Chepo District, and in Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro,” Danis Villarreal, head of the SENAFRONT Eastern Brigade, told Diálogo on July 10. “The Jeeps are used in operations for territorial control in urban and rural areas, anti-narcotics infiltration operations, verifications at checkpoints and roadblocks, and in preventive tours and search and rescue actions.”
These utility vehicles are crucial for security operations such as the Wana Jumaradá campaign; Operation Caribbean; and Operation Chocó as part of the Shield Campaign, which counter transnational organized crime activities, and in the Solidarity Campaign, which provides territorial control and community integration.
“These jeeps are the largest vehicle donation to date from the U.S. Department of Defense to the Republic of Panama,” said U.S. Ambassador to Panama Mari Carmen Aponte, during the handover ceremony. “We want to continue to support Panama’s efforts in its fight against organized crime, human trafficking, and security threats against our countries and our people.”
For his part, Panamanian Public Security Minister Juan Manuel Pino, told the press that they will be an excellent working tool in any season and any geography, thanks to their technology and design.
These all-terrain vehicles have state-of-the-art technology, suitable for operating in extremely difficult conditions and terrain. They are also used by the Rescue, Environment and Resilience group for the search and rescue of people in areas of difficult access. “They are superb” because they make it possible to cover large areas of rough terrain, Pino added.
“Seventy percent of the territory’s rural areas are SENAFRONT’s responsibility. With this assistance, we will maintain better mobility in unpaved terrain and greater assistance to places and communities where presence was null or sporadic,” Villareal said. “We will be able to insert troops in night operations in rural areas and sectors that are difficult to penetrate, to carry out territorial control, and counter common and transnational organized crime.”
“Among other benefits, the Jeep J8s offer immediacy in the movement of personnel, constant patrolling in areas that are considered unreachable and effectiveness in coastal terrain, which will increase our assistance,” then SENAN director, Commissioner Jeremías Urieta, told Diálogo on July 10. “Likewise, they can be included in land operations that are carried out in conjunction with early warning patrol boats.”
“In our case, these new vehicles will be used by the Special Forces units, Aeronaval Infantry, and in the third zone, which includes Colón’s Costa Arriba and Costa Abajo, and part of the Comarca Guna Yala, where the fight against drug trafficking and criminal organizations is frontal. Communities such as Santa Isabel, Playa Chiquita, Costa Abajo, the districts of Donoso and Chagres, are places where the J8s will contribute a lot to our security and relief work, strengthening our operational capabilities,” he added.
“Although their initial function is security, these vehicles will also be used in social development and humanitarian aid, which are the operational axes and objectives of our institutional mission,” Urieta concluded.