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Tuesday, August 22 2017 @ 06:25 PM EDT

Coast Guard Seizes 719 Kilos of Cocaine Near Panama

Drug TraffickingMIAMI BEACH, Florida — The Coast Guard is reporting an operation in the Caribbean that netted more than $23 million worth of cocaine.

Roughly 719 kilograms of cocaine will be unloaded Thursday at the Coast Guard station in Miami Beach.

The drugs were confiscated during a Sept. 8 interdiction. Officials say a Coast Guard crew was on routine patrol when they spotted a suspicious 208-foot cargo vessel in international waters northeast of Panama.

According to the Coast Guard, the crew found multiple packages of contraband throughout the ship. Thirteen people aboard the ship were taken into custody.

Cmdr. Timothy Cronin says drug smuggling organizations are continuously trying to change their tactics to avoid interdiction.

Earlier this month, the Coast Guard seized about $93 million worth of cocaine during separate operations in the western Caribbean. (AP)

Editor's Comment: About 200 tons of cocaine makes its way through Panama every year. Combined seizures by Panamanian and US authorities total around 50 tons per year. So therefore, about three-quarters of the product gets through.

These traffickers generally do not represent any sort of danger for the 50,000+ Americans and other members of the English speaking community of expatriates in Panama for one simple reason - they are smugglers who are trying to keep as low a profile as possible. Getting tangled up with a "gringo" (for whatever reason) is the opposite of keeping a low profile.

But if you've driven down the highways of Panama, then chances are good that at one point in time you've been next to a vehicle loaded down with a massive haul of cocaine - guarded by a couple of dudes toting AK-47's. That pretty little speedboat out there on the horizon which made your photo of the sunset against the coconut trees just perfect? 250 kilos of coke aboard and headed North. That very nice gentleman you met at the bank with the perfect English, slight accent, and expensive watch? He laundered about $100 million dollars over the past four years.

Just go on about you life - there's nothing to see here. After more than ten years working as an investigative journalist in Panama I learned there's one thing you leave to the authorities to investigate - the drug traffickers and money launderers. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. They do your thing, you do yours. Nothing to worry about. And I bring this up because there are probably people out there who are thinking about relocating to Panama as retirees - come on down. These stories about drug smugglers getting busted are nothing more than a part of the scenery, and they do not represent any sort of a worry or danger to the expat community.

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