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Panama’s SENAFRONT Works with Public and Colombian National Army to Fight Drug Trafficking

Panama’s SENAFRONT Works with Public and Colombian National Army to Fight Drug Trafficking

By Dialogo
February 23, 2015




The Colombian National Army and the civilian population of Panama’s Darién province are working with the Panamanian Border Service (SENAFRONT) to fight organized crime activities along the country’s border with Colombia.

The collaboration is part of a holistic effort to crack down on illegal enterprises by the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other unlawful groups. SENAFRONT has earned the confidence of the people of Darién in their efforts against the FARC, which maintained a strong presence in the region until 2009.

Officials from SENAFRONT and Troops with the Colombian Army have worked together on projects that include digging trenches to deter drug trafficking along the shared border between the two nations. Additionally, they’re developing community activities to engage with the population.

“We decided to strengthen ties with the border communities,” said General Frank Ábrego, SENAFRONT Director, whose team is responsible for developing a variety of social programs to benefit local residents.

For example, SENAFRONT offers free medical examinations and nutrition workshops to people in Darién. Officials with SENAFRONT started 2015 by visiting all of the communities in Darién to distribute gifts to children and young people in celebration of Three Kings’ Day.

It was not the first time SENAFRONT authorities provided assistance to the people of the Darién community, however. In November, to commemorate SENAFRONT’s sixth anniversary, officials provided wheelchairs, mattresses, tool kits, machetes, shovels, bags of food, and powdered milk to support the community.

SENAFRONT is also reaching out to the civilian population through the Vecinos Vigilantes
(Vigilant Neighbors) program, which encourages the civilian population to provide law enforcement authorities with information about suspicious activities, according to SENAFRONT Deputy Commissioner Luis Trejos. The initiative also provides educational programs and sports activities for children and adolescents. Vecinos Vigilantes
has two main objectives:


To encourage civilian residents to cooperate with SENAFRONT in the fight against illegal activities.

To provide positive activities for at-risk young people who might be susceptible to recruitment by the FARC and other organized crime groups.


As a consequence of such community engagement and strong law enforcement operations, SENAFRONT has routed the FARC from the Darién región.

Community engagement and enforcement


An example of SENAFRONT’s enforcement initiatives was evident during Operation Nia Sapur, on December 13, when SENAFRONT forces dismantled a camp that allegedly belonged to the criminal group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia. The camp was located at the head of the Pucuru River, along the border between the provinces of Darién and Colombia.

The group used the camp to rest and to organize and launch criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and illegal mining. It was used by 50 to 60 people, according to Ábrego. The alleged members of the criminal group fled.

“It’s clear that these strategies are producing good results,”saidthe U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, William Brownfield.

Panama, Colombia, and the United States cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking and other organized crime enterprises, primarily by sharing information.

In September 2014, Assistant Secretary Brownfield visited various rural communities in the province of Darién and highlighted the efforts by Panamanian authorities to dismantle the settlements used by organizations involved in the trafficking of illegal substances.

“There is a commitment between the governments of Panama, Colombia, and the United States to combat international crime and improve public safety,” Brownfield said.

As a result of these efforts, drug trafficking through Panama to northern markets, including the United States, has decreased by 50 percent, according to Brownfield.

Panama and Colombia cooperate to fight drug trafficking


Cooperation between Panama and Colombia in the fight against drug trafficking and other illegal activities was strengthened in 2008, with the creation of the Binational Border Commission (COMBIFRON). The commission, comprised of intelligence and law enforcement authorities from both countries, established a full exchange of information between Panama and Colombia, in the fight against narco-trafficking and other illegal enterprises.

COMBIFRON allows law enforcement authorities from both nations to share information, monitor developments in remote areas, such as the Darién region, and develop strategies to improve public safety.

This strategy has drawn praise from United States authorities.

“Panama seizes 10 percent of the drugs that are produced in Colombia, which is a result of the work being carried out by the National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) and SENAFRONT, particularly along the coastal regions and the border with Colombia,” according to Panamanian Minister of Public Security Rodolfo Aguilera. “This has led the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to congratulate the Panamanian government for these results.”

Drug seizures are one important metric that shows that the strategy is working, but SENAFRONT, in cooperation with Colombia and the U.S., will continue to protect Panama’s borders, according to Deputy Minister of Public Security Rogelio Donadío.



The Colombian National Army and the civilian population of Panama’s Darién province are working with the Panamanian Border Service (SENAFRONT) to fight organized crime activities along the country’s border with Colombia.

The collaboration is part of a holistic effort to crack down on illegal enterprises by the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other unlawful groups. SENAFRONT has earned the confidence of the people of Darién in their efforts against the FARC, which maintained a strong presence in the region until 2009.

Officials from SENAFRONT and Troops with the Colombian Army have worked together on projects that include digging trenches to deter drug trafficking along the shared border between the two nations. Additionally, they’re developing community activities to engage with the population.

“We decided to strengthen ties with the border communities,” said General Frank Ábrego, SENAFRONT Director, whose team is responsible for developing a variety of social programs to benefit local residents.

For example, SENAFRONT offers free medical examinations and nutrition workshops to people in Darién. Officials with SENAFRONT started 2015 by visiting all of the communities in Darién to distribute gifts to children and young people in celebration of Three Kings’ Day.

It was not the first time SENAFRONT authorities provided assistance to the people of the Darién community, however. In November, to commemorate SENAFRONT’s sixth anniversary, officials provided wheelchairs, mattresses, tool kits, machetes, shovels, bags of food, and powdered milk to support the community.

SENAFRONT is also reaching out to the civilian population through the Vecinos Vigilantes
(Vigilant Neighbors) program, which encourages the civilian population to provide law enforcement authorities with information about suspicious activities, according to SENAFRONT Deputy Commissioner Luis Trejos. The initiative also provides educational programs and sports activities for children and adolescents. Vecinos Vigilantes
has two main objectives:


To encourage civilian residents to cooperate with SENAFRONT in the fight against illegal activities.

To provide positive activities for at-risk young people who might be susceptible to recruitment by the FARC and other organized crime groups.


As a consequence of such community engagement and strong law enforcement operations, SENAFRONT has routed the FARC from the Darién región.

Community engagement and enforcement


An example of SENAFRONT’s enforcement initiatives was evident during Operation Nia Sapur, on December 13, when SENAFRONT forces dismantled a camp that allegedly belonged to the criminal group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia. The camp was located at the head of the Pucuru River, along the border between the provinces of Darién and Colombia.

The group used the camp to rest and to organize and launch criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and illegal mining. It was used by 50 to 60 people, according to Ábrego. The alleged members of the criminal group fled.

“It’s clear that these strategies are producing good results,”saidthe U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, William Brownfield.

Panama, Colombia, and the United States cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking and other organized crime enterprises, primarily by sharing information.

In September 2014, Assistant Secretary Brownfield visited various rural communities in the province of Darién and highlighted the efforts by Panamanian authorities to dismantle the settlements used by organizations involved in the trafficking of illegal substances.

“There is a commitment between the governments of Panama, Colombia, and the United States to combat international crime and improve public safety,” Brownfield said.

As a result of these efforts, drug trafficking through Panama to northern markets, including the United States, has decreased by 50 percent, according to Brownfield.

Panama and Colombia cooperate to fight drug trafficking


Cooperation between Panama and Colombia in the fight against drug trafficking and other illegal activities was strengthened in 2008, with the creation of the Binational Border Commission (COMBIFRON). The commission, comprised of intelligence and law enforcement authorities from both countries, established a full exchange of information between Panama and Colombia, in the fight against narco-trafficking and other illegal enterprises.

COMBIFRON allows law enforcement authorities from both nations to share information, monitor developments in remote areas, such as the Darién region, and develop strategies to improve public safety.

This strategy has drawn praise from United States authorities.

“Panama seizes 10 percent of the drugs that are produced in Colombia, which is a result of the work being carried out by the National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) and SENAFRONT, particularly along the coastal regions and the border with Colombia,” according to Panamanian Minister of Public Security Rodolfo Aguilera. “This has led the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to congratulate the Panamanian government for these results.”

Drug seizures are one important metric that shows that the strategy is working, but SENAFRONT, in cooperation with Colombia and the U.S., will continue to protect Panama’s borders, according to Deputy Minister of Public Security Rogelio Donadío.
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