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Panamanian Gangs Copy Methods of Their Central American Counterparts, Minister Says

By Dialogo
May 12, 2010

Panamanian gangs have copied the bloody methods of their Central American counterparts, known as maras, according to statements by the Panamanian minister of government and justice, José Raúl Mulino, published by the local press Tuesday. Mulino attributed the wave of violence experienced by the country in recent weeks to organized crime and affirmed that local gangs “have adopted techniques used by Central American maras,” such as the settlement of accounts, “homicides with mutilation and the dismemberment of bodies, in order to send messages to their adversaries and enemies,” according to the daily La Prensa. In recent weeks three corpses cut into pieces have been found, attributed to fights between local gangs involved in stealing drugs. The Panamanian government has identified 245 gangs, principally concentrated in the capital and the populous district of San Miguelito, neighboring the capital, and they are considered responsible for the country’s increase in crime and activities related to international drug trafficking. Mulino affirmed that it is necessary to apply strategies in order to “avoid turning drug traffickers and murderers into celebrities,” for which reason the handbook of gang members will be given to the press in order to make their identities known. So far this year, there have been more than 300 homicides in Panama, while there were 808 in 2009 and 363 in 2006, despite increased penalties, the creation of naval air bases, and the reorganization of several ministries by Ricardo Martinelli’s administration.