Panama Increases Operations to Counter Transnational Crime

Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo | 1 October 2019

Transnational Threats

SENAN seized more than 24,000 kilograms of drugs from January to August 2019, with the help of air, naval, and land equipment donated by the United States. (Photo: Panamanian Air and Naval Service)

The Panamanian Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish), in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Prosecutor for Narcotics, seized more than 24 tons of illicit substances in 45 joint operations, also capturing 59 people from January to August 2019, with the help of air, naval, and land resources, many donated by the U.S. government.

Almost half of the seizures were made during Operation Joining Forces (Operación Uniendo Fuerzas), a security strategy that started on July 1, the Panamanian Public Force said. Fifty-three percent of seizures took place in the waters of the Caribbean, while 47 percent were in the Pacific, according to an online report from newspaper Panamá América.

“It’s the result of strategically adding and moving new [resources] transferred by the U.S. to Panama,” Major Juan Alvarado, head of SENAN’s Aviation Program, told Diálogo. “The support received is decisive to neutralize and reduce drug smuggling in our area of responsibility.”

Panama received six Bell UH-1H helicopters donated by the U.S. government to counter transnational crime. (Photo: Panamanian Air and Naval Service)

In the last five years, Panama received more than $100 million from the United States in land and naval equipment, as well as air services, training programs, and information systems to seize drugs and dismantle networks involved in human trafficking and smuggling, SENAN told the press. “Resource transfer includes military aircraft designed for rough terrain, which is the case in the country’s areas of operations,” SENAN indicated.

Through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the U.S. government reiterated its commitment to Panama on June 30, with the transfer of six Bell UH-1H helicopters valued at $24 million. These tools will enable SENAN and the National Border Service (SENAFRONT, in Spanish) to establish an air shield in the Darien province to minimize criminal activity and strengthen regional security, SENAN said.

“The transfer is an important exchange of services between the Ministry of Security and the U.S. Department of Defense,” said Jonattan Del Rosario, then minister of the Interior at the handover ceremony. “Thanks to U.S. cooperation, the public force has increased its planning, strategic, and intelligence skills and created internal bodies for national security and defense,” said Maj. Alvarado. SENAN Commissioner Jesús Rodríguez said that this technology and intelligence are great partners against crime that yielded satisfactory results in Operation Joining Forces. “Thanks to our biometric data, at Tocumen International Airport, every 10 minutes we receive alerts about wanted people,” said Samira Gozaine, director of the National Migration Service.

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