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US Strengthens Fight against Narcotrafficking in Panama

US Strengthens Fight against Narcotrafficking in Panama

By Lorena Baires/Diálogo
November 02, 2021

On September 20, 2021, the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation donated a maritime interdiction patrol boat to the Panamanian Ministry of Public Security (MINSEG, in Spanish) to strengthen the fight against narcotrafficking of the Panamanian National Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish) and the Regional Center for Aeronaval Operations (CROAN, in Spanish).

The U.S. Embassy in Panama confirmed that the Boston Whaler-class vessel is valued at $632,791, which includes maintenance and training equipment for SENAN personnel.

“Panama is a regional leader in drug seizures […], and I congratulate them for their efforts. Cooperation increases their ability to safeguard their maritime domain. We are happy to support their operations with donations like this,” Chris Bergaust, minister counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Panama, said.

As part of the same donation, the Panamanian National Border Service (SENAFRONT, in Spanish) indicated that it received 15 vehicles, including two ambulances, on September 17. The units will help to increase operational effectiveness in the Immediate Reaction Force against Narcoterrorism, an elite unit for land and riverine patrols.

SENAN reported the seizure of 3,200 kg of cocaine in the Guna Yala region, in the Caribbean Sea, October 1, 2021. (Photo: Panamanian National Air and Naval Service)

Positive outcomes

In seven operations from September 24 to October 8, Panamanian authorities thwarted the distribution of 5,924 kilograms of cocaine.

SENAN, in coordination with CROAN, confirmed the seizure of 600 kg of cocaine in the province of Colón, on a merchant ship bound for Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on October 8. That same day, agents seized 269 kg of cocaine on a speedboat with a false bottom off the coast of the Guararé municipality, in the Pacific Ocean.

On October 1, SENAN reported the seizure of 3,200 kg of cocaine in a speedboat with four crew members on board, in the Guna Yala region on the Caribbean coast.

On September 29, SENAN confirmed the seizure of 263 kg of cocaine at a port terminal on the Caribbean coast of Colón province. The shipment had come from Shanghai, China, and was bound for Guatemala. That same day, SENAFRONT confiscated 200 kg of cocaine on a vessel with two men on board, who attempted to escape in San Ignacio de Tupile, in the Guna Yala region.

On September 28, at the same Caribbean port terminal, SENAN reported seizing 1,057 kg of cocaine on a merchant ship coming from Chile. The drug was bound for France and Belgium.

On September 24, Panama’s maritime security authorities also confirmed the seizure of 335 kg of cocaine northeast of Isla del Rey, in the Pearl Islands. SENAN reported that from January 1 to October 8 they had conducted 111 operations, in which they seized 59,406 kg of drugs.