US Southern Command Explains Anti Drug Trafficking Strategy
Monday, September 03 2012 @ 04:18 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
Panama is considered to be the most important country in the region in terms of strategy, because it is considered to be a "funnel" for drug traffickers. The effectiveness of the interceptions and seizures of tons of drugs has led the joint forces to consider Panama to be the second most important point in drugs that are being trafficked from South America through Mexico to the United States. These revelations are part of the cooperation being made between the United States and Panama, because the drugs that come mostly from Colombia have invaded the northern nation, with some 85% of drugs going into that final destination.
In 2011, the U.S. budget to counter the effects of the drug trade was $25 billion dollars. About 90% of the drugs passing through Central America at this time have Honduras as their first destination. There is an assistance to the maritime forces from Central American countries, and the Southern Command has focused on areas of mutual interest. On the situation in Honduras, they have reached out and there are binational actions between Panama and Honduras, said the Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino.
The Panamanian authorities have had to consolidate in binational actions, because the Northern coast of the province of Veraguas and the coast of Bocas del Toro have been used as "stashes" where drug traffickers hide the packages of drugs that are being moved to Honduras. Mulino announced Panama will open new Naval Air Stations in the area, further hindering the activities of drug traffickers. Recently one ton of cocaine was seized off the coast of Veraguas, in the international operation called "Martillo."
Cities penetrated - The passage of drugs through Central America means 40% of all the cocaine produced and 50% of methamphetamine reaches North America. Drug use has been reduced by over a third in recent years. In the United States 1,200 cities are being penetrated by the Mexican cartels.
Scott Latimer, a Lieutenant Colonel of Public Security Assistance of the United States, said there is an effort on the part of his country to provide and cooperate with the government of Panama in public safety, through the State Department and the U.S. Southern Command.
Matt Spencer, counternarcotics planning analyst, said there is help in training, infrastructure construction, devices, boats, and equipment for the forces of the State Border Service and the Naval Air Service of Panama. The Defense Department has spent between $5 and $6 million dollars in Panama for training and infrastructure. Right now they are working in Puerto Piña in the pier in La Palma in the Darién, on Isla Coco, and on the new SENAFRONT operations center in Gamboa, where there is new infrastructure.
The Southern Command spokesmen said between 2011 and 2012 the United States has contributed $2 million dollars in security assistance to help fight drug trafficking in Panama. A third facet is education and training, which amounts to $750,000 dollars. One program that was developed was police training between Colombia and Panama, in the Darien, with a specialized jungle unit. All of the money spent on these kinds of bilateral contributions are checked in a coordinated manner by the State Department. (Critica)
Editor's Comment: Cool. Finally. For the longest time, the government of Panama refused to acknowledge that the government of the United States was funding the construction of the new Anti Drug outposts being built all along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. In Panama there's a knee-jerk reaction against any possibility that the US military might return to open a base someday. There's no problem with TDY troops - Panamanians generally like the US military in general terms. However the subject of bases is politically sensitive. The US spends $25 billion dollars per year to fight drug trafficking? Really? Ah, OK. Want to know where every dime goes? Then read this report. Most budgets are increasing from 2012 to 2013. When I was in the military, we used to call the war on drugs the "war of last resort." In other words, when we didn't have an "real" bad guys to shoot at, there were always the drug traffickers as a fall-back position. So as the war on terrorism is being drawn down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on drugs will be ramped back up. Not the first time...