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Saturday, April 19 2014 @ 01:16 PM EDT

Minister of Government and Justice Predicts More Clashes With The FARC

Drug Trafficking
Jose Raul Mulino - Minister of Government and Justice
Jose Raul Mulino - Minister of Government and Justice
Panama's Minister of Government and Justice, Jose Raul Mulino, predicted additional clashes with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) due to the drug trafficking activities related to this group, and said the country will need more resources to combat crime. In an interview with Acan-Efe, the minister warned also of the "tentacles" of Mexican drug cartels in the region and acknowledged the infiltration of Panamanian institutions by elements of organized crime related to drug trafficking, which according to unofficial estimates move about 250 tons of cocaine through Panama every year. "I predict this year we could see more confrontations. It's important to point out that these conflicts are occurring within our national territory ... they do not mean we are interfering in the internal armed struggle in Colombia, these things do not happen within the borders of Colombia," said Mulino. Panamanian border guards engaged in a confrontation in January 2010 with FARC guerrillas, resulting in the deaths of three insurgents and the arrest of two more. Last week four more FARC guerrillas were arrested. The minister said security and vigilance has been increased in the Darien province, which borders Colombia, and he pointed to the creation of four new aero-naval bases by the end of this year - and that two of them are already working - to impede the transit of drugs. "Before, there were no clashes within our territory (...) simply because (the Panamanian forces) were not patrolling," he said, in highlighting the border area between Panama and Colombia "is the commercial and financial front of the FARC. From this side, the Panama side of the border, towards the Pacific ocean," he added. (more)

"We will do whatever we have to do in order to push these people closer to their borders or within its limits," he said, stressing the incursion of the FARC into Panamanian territory "is a reality."

When asked about the risk of Panama becoming involved in the Colombian internal conflict, Mulino acknowledged: "this possibility always exists." "I do not say no, this is risky," he continued, "I am clear this is risky business, to combat it is not always sympathetic to those on the other side of the sidewalk, but you have to do it." He said, however, Panama is not going to get involved in "outside fights" and he again denied the existence of an alleged secret pact with Colombia in the fight against insurgents.

After the seizure of 54 tons of drugs confiscated in 2009, Mulino said the recent U.S. report on drugs used some expressions that are "are not the most happy" to assert Panama was the "mouth of the funnel" of the movement of drugs in South America that it's democracy was at risk. Despite this, the minister said the document "is perhaps a little positive and highlights the work" of the Panamanian government, while stressing collaboration on "training" and "intelligence" with the United States.

However, the minister pointed out that the U.S. contribution "monetarily is very low" and he underscored the need for the US to dedicate funding as part of a plan against drug trafficking for the region similar to the Mérida Plan, which basically covers Mexico and some Central American countries, or the Plan Colombia. Mulino supported the merits for such a request with arguments like that Panama seized $30 billion dollars worth of drugs in 2009, and that "according to U.S. spokespersons" your country last year seized 22 tons more than the U.S.. "

He said that according to "international advisers," 250 tons of cocaine passed through Panama in 2009, but stressed that figure cannot be "scientifically proven." He said that in Panama, the cocaine departs from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia towards the United States, and that the "tentacles" of the Mexican drug cartels have been felt for the past three years, something that in his opinion is due to the "fragmentation of the Colombian drug cartels." He revealed that Mexico's Sinaloa cartel had the "ambition" of passing 200 tons of cocaine through Panama last year, but they only managed to get 70 tons through. "It's intelligence information," he said. (Source - Panama America)

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