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Sunday, October 22 2017 @ 03:11 PM EDT

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Seven Guys Arrested With 80 AK-47's At Dawn

Drug TraffickingNational Police units were able to dismantle a gang engaged in arms trafficking.  The band consists of four Colombians and three Panamanians, including a member of the Institutional Protection System (SPI), who were traveling aboard three vans carrying more than 80 AK-47 type weapons. Additionally they were armed with two 9mm handguns. The seven suspects were arrested in the area of Nuevo Tocumen, in the Eastern part of the province of Panama, in the early morning hours today. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Drug trafficking, money laundering, weapons trafficking, human trafficking - it's all tied together. Illegal activity, and Panama tends to be right at the center of the action due to its geographic position, with the drug markets to the North and source countries to the South. Most of this kind of activity simply passes right by the vast majority of the members of the English speaking community of expatriates who live in the Republic of Panama. Don't try to buy an illegal AK-47 and you should not have any problems. And for the record, Panamanian laws make it very difficult for a private citizen to own any sort of rifle or long gun with a rifled barrel. Handguns for personal protection, shotguns for home defense, fine - but AK-47's make Panamanians very nervous. Back during the Noriega years Cuba flooded Panama with AK-47's by the container load. These weapons were handed out to the poorest neighborhoods, to the "Dignity Battalions" that were supposed to help shoot American military personnel, and they've been used in crime every since.

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Body Of Colombian Man Found By Road To El Valle

Drug TraffickingDecomposing, and with hands and feet bound, was found yesterday the body of a Colombian man on the side of the road to El Valle de Anton, near Las Margaritas in San Carlos. Children investigating an odor in the vicinity made the gruesome discovery when they came to the place where the rotting corpse was located. They immediately notified the authorities.

He Was From Buenaventura - Thanks to the Colombian passport found at the scene, investigators hypothesize the body belongs to 37 year old Tobías Casqueta Arroyo, who is from San Buenaventura, Colombia, and who entered Panama on 23 February 2012 by the community of Jaque, in the province of Darien. Detectives hypothesize the Colombian had been dead for about four days. In addition, his face was disfigured by birds of prey. There were some documents found beside the corpse. Those in charge of the investigations will have to await the results of the autopsy to determine what caused his death. (Mi Diario)

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Installation Of New Coastal Surveillance Radars Started in Panama

Drug TraffickingThe installation of the 19 new coastal surveillance radar sets to be located along the shores of the Pacific and Atlantic in Panama could be completed by March 2013, said Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino. He said the installation of these radars will begin in easily accessible areas, where private companies have already donated thousand square meters of land. "I just would have to invest in the perimeter fence," he added.

About the payment for this equipment the contract states that Panama will issue an invoice to be purchased by Citibank London (representing three banks) and the money will be transferred to the manufacturers. He said Panama will make the first payment in 2014 once the installation of the equipment is complete. "When we made ​​the purchase of the radars, we made sure they had a guarantee, and what's more training for Panamanian officials is also included in the contract," he said.

He added that the radars will be interconnected with the new patrol boats and the Database Operations Center in Panama, and eventually they will be interconnected with United States, Colombia, Mexico, among others. He said soon they would invite the news media to take a tour of the Command and Control Center that is being installed in Cocolí, at the headquarters of the National Naval Air Service. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: In this interview on Telemetro this morning, Mulino said in some of the locations that are more difficult to access, they will have to lift it all in via helicopter because there are no roads, or any way to get in there on boat or barge. They are building the easier ones first, and the more difficult ones will come on line later. It's a damn shame they screwed this whole gig up with the Valter Lavitola scandal. Until that broke this project was going to be a huge "plus" for Panama - but now it just feels like a tainted "almost" corruption scandal.

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New Patrol Boats Christened And Entered Into Service in Panama

Drug TraffickingThe four model PC 200 patrol boats - which according to the government have a value of $80 million dollars - donated to Panama by the government of Italy, were christened yesterday. Interestingly, none of the honorees attended. The ships were christened with the names of the four former presidents, Guillermo Endara, Ernesto Pérez Balladares, Mireya Moscoso and Martín Torrijos, The refurbished patrol boats were presented and delivered yesterday to the National Air System (Senan). Guillermo Endara was represented at the ceremony by his widow, Ana Mae Diaz Endara, widow, who described as "great" the homage paid to the former president. Former president Mireya Moscoso sent a person on her behalf, while Perez Balladares and Torrijos did not attend. President Ricardo Martinelli said "these boats will help fight drug trafficking and money laundering that other governments have allowed to abound until today."

Ready For Action - The newly arrived patrol boats will be deployed along the Pacific coast between the province of Darien and Colombia, but also in neighboring points with neighboring Costa Rica. It is expected that by January 2013 two more, larger patrol boats will be arriving from Italy. (Mi Diario)

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Jan Cornelis Hendril Hovenkamp - Arrested in Panama

Drug Trafficking
Jan Cornelis Hendril Hovenkamp- Arrested in Panama
Jan Cornelis Hendril Hovenkamp- Arrested in Panama
The Dutch national, Jan Cornelis Hendril Hovenkamp, 55 years old, was captured by units of the Judicial Investigation Department of the National Police (DIJ) in the province of Chiriqui, after being convicted by a court in Haarlen of allegedly bringing a great quantity of marijuana to that country. The operation performed by judicial investigators culminated in a shopping center in the province, through an order of detention pending extradition, issued by the Attorney General's Office in response to a request from the the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. According to reports, the detainee introduced in February 1994, some 3,515 kilograms of marijuana, and another substantial amount of the same herb in 1992, so he was charged with the alleged commission of two crimes related to drugs. The Dutchman was placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the extradition request issued by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. (Critica)
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One Ton Of Cocaine Busted On A Sailboat In Guna Yala

Drug TraffickingUnits of the National Naval Air Service achieved the seizure of one ton of pure cocaine in a sailboat near Progreso, in the district of Guna Yala. The drugs were hidden internally in the rudders of the boat. Aboard the boat were two men, one from Nicaragua and one Guatemalan. The load was bound for Guatemala. (Critica) The drugs were found on the sailboat when it was located in the area of the Cayos Holandeses (Dutch Keys) to the Northeast of El Porvenir. The drugs were sealed inside of the rudder area of a catamaran named the "Tropicat." (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Golly, drug traffickers using sail boats to smuggle drugs in the Caribbean. While I was investigating the murders of Don North and Jean Pierre Bouhard it became apparent that sailboats were being used frequently by drug traffickers, and the authorities tended to have a "hands off" attitude for some reason.

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Busted in Tortí with 46 Kilos of Cocaine

Drug TraffickingA man who tried to bribe police officers in the sector of Tortí in Chepo, was arrested in the early hours of Saturday. The individual, after being arrested, was found to have 46 packages of cocaine in his possession, according to a statement from the National Police. The capture of the subject came after blue Hyundai Accent passed a police patrol car at high speed. Immediately the police gave chase from El Higueronal de Tortí to the premises of a school located in that community. According to the statement, the driver of the car tried to bribe the agents when they asked him to accompany them to the headquarters of that institution in Chepo, offering the sum of $10,000 in cash and he confessed that he was carrying cocaine. The police refused the offer and immediately arrested the man. Personnel from the office of the Anti Drug Prosecutor arrived at the scene and found the drugs in the car. The cocaine was found inside two suitcases, one black and one blue with gray. The detainee, along with the evidence, was placed at the disposal of the competent authority for investigation, police said. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: So, you've got 46 kilos of cocaine in your car, so you're going to speed and pass a police car? Good plan...

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SENAN Seized 305 Kilos of Cocaine In The Darien

Drug TraffickingSome 305 kilos of suspected cocaine were seized by the National Air Service (SENAN) in a fishing boat. The drugs were seized in the province of Darien, in the district of Jaque, on a fishing boat called the Juliana S. The operation resulted in the arrest of five citizens, three Panamanians and two Colombians. In the same operation two AK 47 rifles and ammunition were also seized. (Telemetro)

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125 Kilos of Cocaine Found In Container Bound For Holland

Drug TraffickingThree suitcases with 125 kilos of cocaine were seized in a container located in the Port of Balboa. The operation was performed by units of the Judicial Investigation Department in coordination with the Anti Drug Prosecutor's Office, and came after a report that the seals on the container had been damaged or broken. When inspected they found two bags with 42 kilos and another with 41 kilos of cocaine. It was also learned the container carrying tanks with mango juice was bound Holland, so it and the substance seized was placed under the orders of the Office of Drugs to continue with investigations into the case. (Critica)



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Woman Arrested For Attempting To Bribe Police Officers

Drug Trafficking A woman was arrested for attempting to bribe National Police officers. Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Zambrano said the lady offered $3,000 for the release of her partner, who was arrested for possessing a kilo of drugs in car driven in the residential area of Costa del Este. Zambrano said the woman was arrested for the crime of encouraging corruption, and the man for drug trafficking. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Apparently they were arrested at the same time. Like, they stop and search the car, find the kilo of drugs, and arrest the guy. Then the woman steps up and offers the police officers $3,000 in cash to let them go. Whoops. And let that be a lesson to you. If you offer a cop a bribe to get out of a traffic ticket, you can be arrested for "encouraging corruption."

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Two Busted For Send Drugs In Packages

Drug TraffickingA subject of Colombian nationality and another Panamanian were arrested for being allegedly involved in a drug case, a fact recorded in the afternoon yesterday in the province of Veraguas. Miguel Garcia, head of the National Police Zone of Veraguas, announced that as part of a joint operation conducted with anti drug units, the two suspects were arrested at a local business that sends and receives packages, when one of them picked up a package that had marijuana in its interior. Both men were residing in the city of Santiago, according to information from the authorities, and those allegedly involved in this drug case were traveling in a white 4x4. Those arrested and the evidence were turned over to the the Anti Drug Prosecutor's Office for investigations. (Estrella)

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Kidnapped and Murdered - Shot Twice In The Head

Drug TraffickingNine hours after gunmen abducted him from his home in Santa Cruz de Bejuco, Alexis Antonio Urieta was found dead in the town of Corona, in the district of San Carlos. At 7:45 am yesterday, a resident walking along the Corona del Mar looked at one side of the road and spotted the body of a man, wearing a black sweater, blue pants and black shoes with gold trim. The man's hands were tied behind his back with a plastic rope and metal handcuffs. The inhabitant notified the authorities, who upon arriving at the site confirmed that it was Alexis Urieta, 35, who was reported missing after several subjects arrived home at about midnight Saturday, and threatened him and his wife with a gun.

The unidentified men, presumably with Colombian accents, placed a hood over his head and tied his hands behind his back, as they asked him about a suitcase full of money. The gunmen decided to take him away, but before they left they warned his pregnant wife to keep quiet. Alexis was shot twice in the head.

His body was found laying by the road to the harbor, in the town of Santa Cruz, district of Bejuco, in Chame, and he was in the business of buying and selling fish. According to locals, in recent months Urieta had remodeled the rudimentary port to facilitate the arrival of his boats. Authorities are investigating whether the death has any connection with the alleged disappearance of a briefcase full of money that was being carried by a man who was shot to death on Friday night in El Higo in San Carlos. (Siglo)

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Drug Trafficker Surrenders To The DEA in Panama

Drug TraffickingMauner Mahecha Marcelo, the alleged mastermind of the so-called narco-submarines used by the mob to get tons of cocaine into Mexico and Central America, surrendered to agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Panama, Colombian media reported. It was reported the alleged drug trafficker later was transferred to Florida, United States, where a Federal Court opened criminal charges related to international drug trafficking. (Prensa)
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272 Kilos of Cocaine Seized in Guatemala - Came From Colombia and Panama

Drug TraffickingNarcotics agents seized 272 kilos cocaine in Guatemala that came from Colombia and Panama, official sources said today. The Deputy Minister of the Interior, responsible for combating drug trafficking, Eunice Mendizabal, told reporters 270 kilos of cocaine were found yesterday in a warehouse that works on the premises of the international airport in the capital. This cache, valued at 27 million quetzals ($3.49 million dollars) had arrived on Tuesday night to these warehouses from Colombia in boxes that were packed to look like coal dust. Meanwhile, in the toilet of a passenger plane that arrived from Panama to Guatemala, officers found another two kilos of cocaine, according to the source. The discovery happened yesterday after the flight attendants conducted a routine inspection of the aircraft after the passengers left the plane. No arrests have been made in either of the two seizures, and the authorities have launched investigations to determine who were the recipients of the two caches. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: According to the National Drug Threat Assessment 2011:

  • The overall availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing. Heroin, marijuana, MDMA, and methamphetamine are readily available, and their availability appears to be increasing in some markets. Cocaine is widely available throughout the country, although at diminished levels since 2007. The availability of other drugs fluctuates at lower levels, as demonstrated by the emergence of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones in a number of markets over the past few years.

  • Cocaine: The availability of cocaine will remain below pre-2007 levels over the near term. Intercartel fighting and counterdrug activity disrupted traffickers’ ability to move cocaine from South America toward the United States. Decreased cocaine production in Colombia - down 43 percent from a potential 510 pure metric tons in 2006 to 290 pure metric tons in 2009 - coupled with an increase in cocaine smuggling to non-U.S. markets, particularly Europe, has resulted in lower cocaine availability in U.S. markets. NDIC assesses that cocaine production levels will not increase sufficiently in 2011 to return U.S. availability to pre-2007 levels.

  • Law enforcement officials in 24 of 51 key U.S. drug markets - primarily those east of the Mississippi River - reported cocaine availability below 2006 levels during the first 6 months of 2010. Investigators in five markets west of the Mississippi reported cocaine availability above 2006 levels during the same period.

    Cocaine Price and Purity Data
    Cocaine Price and Purity Data


  • Federal agencies seized at least 30 percent less cocaine in the continental United States in FY2009 and FY2010 than in FY2006 (see Table B3 in Appendix B).

  • The price per pure gram of cocaine was 69 percent higher in the third quarter of 2010 than in the first quarter of 2007, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidenceq (STRIDE); cocaine purity was 30 percent lower in the third quarter of 2010 than in the first quarter of 2007 (see Figure 7 on page 25).

  • Decreased cocaine availability has resulted in diminished levels of cocaine abuse.

  • According to the 2009 NSDUH, the rate of past year cocaine use among respondents aged 12 and older declined from 2.5 percent in 2006 to 1.9 percent in 2009 (see Table B4 in Appendix B). NSDUH data also show that the estimated number of individuals aged 12 and older who initiated cocaine use decreased from 977,000 in 2006 to 617,000 in 2009, the lowest level recorded since 1973.

  • MTF data show that the annual prevalence of cocaine use by twelfth graders declined significantly, from 5.1 percent in 2005 to 2.9 percent in 2010, the lowest percentage since 1999. Significant decreases occurred for tenth-grade students from 2005 to 2010 (see Table B5 in Appendix B).

  • Quest Diagnostics Incorporated data indicate that the percentage of positive results for cocaine in workplace drug tests in the general workforce has declined steadily since 2006; the figure for the first 6 months of 2010 was the lowest recorded since 1997 (see Figure 8 on page 25).

So, the "drug war" against cocaine is apparently having a positive affect. The street cost of cocaine is going up, purity is dropping, cocaine production in Colombia is dropping, seizures are dropping, as are positive drug tests for cocaine. So, there's less cocaine available in the United States, and fewer people are abusing cocaine. But - the big "so what" in all of this - is when drug users can't get cheap cocaine they just turn to something else, like heroin or methamphetamine.

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US Announces Sanctions Against Mexican Drug Trafficker With Ties To Panama

Drug TraffickingThe U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday announced sanctions against Mexican drug lord Ezio Benjamín Figueroa Vásquez and his son Hassein Eduardo, both accused of being responsible for an international organization of precursor chemicals. Figueroa Vasquez was arrested in Mexico in September 2011 and remains in custody of the authorities of that country, and he and his son were charged with money laundering that same year in a U.S. court, said a Treasury statement. The father and son commanded an international organization that introduced into Mexico tons of pseudoephedrine from Europe and Africa, according to the U.S. government. In addition, the Treasury sanctioned 16 companies in Mexico and Panama with relations to Figueroa Vasquez. "For years this organization worked with some of the most violent and wild drug trafficking networks in the world based in Mexico," said an official of the Drug Enforcement Administration, John Arvanitis. Under the sanctions, the Treasury can seize any assets of these individuals and businesses in the United States can prosecute any citizen or company doing business with them. (Estrella)
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Sentenced To Twelve Years For International Drug Trafficking

Drug Trafficking
Cocaine Bust In Panama
Cocaine Bust In Panama
The First Criminal Circuit Court declared Adolfo Sánchez Rodríguez criminally responsible for international drug trafficking and sentenced him to 12 years in prison. The First Anti Drug Prosecutor demonstrated Sánchez was the person who prepared the documentation of the illicit cargo, and he was implicated by the co-defendant Luis González Castro. The co-defendant said Sánchez was the person who called him to pickup the cargo which later turned out to be drugs. He said when he picked up the cargo, it was already packed and he was not allowed to check the load in the company where they worked. Sanchez denied he was the client of the air "courier" service company through which he pretended to send the drugs. The incident occurred on 12 November 2008, when police units and the Investigation Department of Customs searched a warehouse for air cargo shipments at the Tocumen Air Terminal and found 68 packages of cocaine that would have been sent to Holland. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Have you ever noticed in Panama that you always see news stories about drug busts, but then there's relatively little follow-up later about whatever happened in those cases? I picked up on this story because it's the closing of the loop for a story that started back in November 2008, about three and a half years ago. That's how long it typically takes for a criminal case to slowly wind it's way through the legal and judicial system here. It takes forever. And that's also why most of the people who are sitting in Panama's prisons have not yet been convicted. They were caught, arrested, and charged - and now they are awaiting trial. There are literally thousands of people in this condition. Panama is slowly changing over the "accusatory" system, more like the US style of doing things, which will speed the processes up considerably.

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42 Kilos of Cocaine Seized in Colon

Drug TraffickingThe National Police and investigators from the Anti Drug Prosecutor's Office discovered 42 kilos of cocaine, found hidden in the false bottom of a panel van that was parked at a residence in the "Four Stops" area of Colon. So far there have been no arrests in this case. (Telemetro)

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SENAN Seized Two Drug Trafficking Boats in Caribbean

Drug TraffickingIntense operations conducted by the National Air Service (SENAN) paid off this week when they confiscated two boats that were in the hands of Colombians and Costa Ricas. The boats were intercepted by the SENAN after a chase that took place along the Caribbean Coast in the province of Colon, because they wanted to see if they were being used to transport illegal substances. This year the SENAN has seized more than three tons of drugs along the various coasts of Panama, where the Panamanian Caribbean is often used for the smuggling of drugs from Colombia to Central America. This entity will continue with the operations in the different parts of the country, which began last Thursday, in conjunction with the National Civil Protection System (Sinaproc) and others. At least 400 officers have been deployed to the different coasts of the country to remain vigilant on the beaches of Gorgona, Santa Clara, Juan Hombrón and El Palmar. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: The SENAN can do ion testing which detects cocaine residue in boats like this. Even if they don't catch the drug traffickers in the act, or if there are no drugs in the boat at the time, they will still seize the boat and motor if the ion test comes back positive.

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Holy Week Pot Bust in Colon

Drug TraffickingAs part of the operations for Easter, the police conducted operations in various sectors of the city of Colon, which have achieved positive results. In the first instance they seized 20 bags, 79 envelopes and 6 packages of marijuana. In addition, a scale and scissors were seized that were being used to package drugs. Second Lieutenant Luis Alvarez said this is the result of the operation during the start of Holy Week. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: In Panama the security forces always deploy additional officers and conduct "operations" during holidays. In Panama everyone is pretty much working through noon today (Thursday). Then most people will get the rest of the afternoon off, and will be gone until next Monday. The bus terminal is jammed, and the highways will be crowded, as people head for the interior for a couple of days. And now because of this bust many people Colon won't have their normal weed supply to blow through during Easter. Now that's a damn shame...

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SENAN Busts 1,360 Kilos And Arrests Three Colombians

Drug TraffickingThe National Naval Air Service of Panama (Senan) seized 1,360 kilos of cocaine from three Colombians during an operation conducted in the Pacific coastal areas of the country, officials said. The Director of Operations of the Senan, Ramon Nonato Lopez, said at a news conference the operation was performed Tuesday in Punta Ventana within two nautical miles from the South of the province of Veraguas, in the central part of the country. In the operation the Colombians Nolvert Micolta Chamorro, Leandro Caicedo and Dorma Avesusto Gutiérrez were arrested, who transported the drugs in a 30 foot long boat with two 150 hp outboard engines. The authorities began an investigation to determine the exact origin and destination of the drugs, and to determine if there are more people involved with this cache. (TVN)

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Arrests In Seizure Of $2.6 Million Dollars in Cash

Drug TraffickingPanama's First Anti Drug Prosecutor filed charges against the six people who are accused in the seizure of $2.6 million dollars in cash, and ordered the arrest of three people. The seizure of the large sum of money occurred during a raid on an apartment in the Terra Wind apartment building, located in the area of San Francisco, in Panama City. The prosecutor charged another person with money laundering after this seizure, which occurred last Friday in the early morning hours. All defendants in the money laundering investigation are Colombians. Those who were released pending trial must sign in at the prosecutor's office every 15 days, and they cannot leave the country without first getting the permission from the investigating authority.

Authorities confirmed that last Friday they seized a total of $2,669,387.50. In the operation, the DIJ and Drug Prosecutor, searched the apartment in response to information, finding the cash. The money was within two suitcases and a blue backpack containing two plastic supermarket bags. The seized money was mostly $100 denominations.

During the raid three Colombian women and a man were arrested, and two others who are minors. A BWM SUV was also seized. The accused were interrogated last Saturday in the Prosecutor's office. Organized groups have been detected who are using Panama for shipments of drugs and money, which they use to make payments for drug shipments. (Critica)

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Authorities Seize $2.6 Million Dollars In Cash In An Apartment in San Francisco, Panama City

Drug TraffickingAgents from the Anti Drug Prosecutor's Office and the National Police today seized $2.6 million dollars allegedly linked to drug trafficking, in an apartment building in San Francisco in Panama City. Following an intelligence operation, the authorities raided the apartment where they arrested four people, three women and one man, all from Colombia. There were also children in the apartment. A full report is expected from the authorities in this regard. The seizure came after a joint operation by the authorities of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama succeeded in dismantling a drug trafficking organization led by Colombians, with the arrest of 55 people and the seizure of 2,000 kilos of cocaine in these three countries. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: When this operation kicked off there were 55 people arrested initially. And now, a few days later, the authorities are apparently using the intelligence information gathered as a result of those initial arrests to go after other parts and pieces of this organization. So yeah, $2.6 million dollars in cash, sitting in an apartment in the San Francisco neighborhood of Panama City. Go figure.

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Central American Presidents Boycotted Pérez Molina's Summit On Decriminalization of Drugs

Drug Trafficking
Otto Pérez Molina - President of Guatemala
Otto Pérez Molina - President of Guatemala
The president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, said today the U.S. boycotted the summit of Central American presidents held on Saturday in this country to discuss new ways to fight drug trafficking, including a possible decriminalization. "Yes there were boycotts and it was due to pressure from some U.S. officials," Pérez Molina told reporters, who promotes an open international dialogue on the possible decriminalization as a new drug strategy.

Pérez Molina did not identify the "officials" in Washington who would have intervened, but he said they did so because "there was fear in the U.S. (of) that Central America could unify around the decriminalization of drugs" and take this proposal as a "block" to the Summit of the Americas to be held in April in Colombia.

The meeting took place last Saturday in the Guatemalan city of Antigua, and was only attended by the presidents of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, and Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla. At the last minute, the leaders of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, declined to participate in the meeting, called by Molina.

Funes said Wednesday the decision not to attend was agreed by the three leaders after Guatemala changed the agenda of the meeting to supposedly center on the issue of decriminalization. Funes said "we decided not to attend the summit because we were not going to discuss an agenda different from what had been agreed" on 6 March 2012 in Honduras, in a meeting with Central American leaders and U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden. Nor, added the Salvadoran president, "did we want to appear like we were sponsoring an initiative that President (Pérez Molina) has every right to propose (...) but not to impose".

Perez Molina denied Thursday he intended with his meeting in Antigua to "unify Central America around decriminalization," and he argued that his proposal is to open a dialogue on new routes for the efficient fight against drug trafficking. "What I can say is that the boycott was not of the president of El Salvador (...) it was the fear that grew in some U.S. officials and what they did in this case, and it is unfortunate, they used the position of the President of El Salvador to make this boycott," he added.

Perez Molina addressed the issue during a working trip to the eastern Guatemala. The meeting in Antigua concluded Saturday with the agreement of the three leaders present and representatives of the other three Central American countries to "continue the discussion" about new strategies to fight drug trafficking before the holding of the Summit of the Americas in a new meeting with a date to be determined.

El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama have expressed open opposition to decriminalization, as has the United States, though they have been willing to discuss new approaches in combating drug trafficking and the extreme violence generated in Central America. (Critica)

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International Drug Trafficking Ring Dismantled - Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Panama

Drug TraffickingA large organization dedicated to the illegal transfer of cocaine, money laundering, and crimes associated with drug trafficking was dismantled by counter narcotics units from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama. More than two tons of drugs were seized that reportedly came from Colombia and was bound for Mexico. Some 55 people were arrested and approximately one million dollars was seized. They also seized were 1,700 doses of the drug known as "crack" as well as 20 vehicles in the cities of Limón, Heredia, and Puntarenas in Costa Rica. The Bureau of Police Research in conjunction with the Anti Drug Prosecutor's Office reported the arrest of eight people in Panama, including six Colombians and two Panamanians, and the seizure of nearly $300,000 in cash. Also 131 packages of cocaine and six vehicles were seized. (Telemetro)

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Panama Destroyed Two FARC Camps Yesterday in the Darien

Drug TraffickingBOGOTA, Colombia. (DPA) - Two FARC guerrilla camps were destroyed in Panama near the Colombian border, revealed today, Wednesday, 28 March 2012, in Bogota the Panamanian Minister of Public Security, Jose Raul Mulino. The official said the camps were found on Tuesday in the Darien jungle as part of an exchange of information with Colombian authorities.

Mulino, who this Wednesday, March 28, met with the Minister of Defense of Colombia, Juan Carlos Pinzón, said no one was arrested during the action. The Minister said intelligence reports indicate the camps belonged to the 57th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). "In the region of the Tuquesa river, we identified two camps of 57th FARC Front and we proceeded with the destruction of these clandestine structures. This joint action is part of the effort with Colombia that seeks there to be no guerrilla presence in our territory. Panama is making the effort in order to have our territory free of this narco-guerrilla group," said Mulino.

Pinzón and Mulino analyzed the situation of border security and coordination of the authorities of both countries to combat various crimes. The ministers agreed to strengthen the fight against drug trafficking and illegal mining, and to implement training programs for the "Armed Forces of Panama" in Colombia. "We have agreed to provide all cooperation to the government of Panama, to train officers of the various public safety services in each of the specialties and by each of the military and police forces in Colombia," said Pinzón. (Prensa)

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31 Kilos of Cocaine Found In A Container Bound for Italy

Drug TraffickingA total of 31 kilos of cocaine being transported in a container were seized this Tuesday, March 27 at the port of Cristobal by members of the National Customs Authority. Through a press release Customs reported during a routine inspection it was found the seal of the container had been violated, so there was a physical inspection of the vessel, which was allegedly carrying hazelnuts. During the inspection it was found the drugs were hidden in two suitcases, which had been placed in the first line of the merchandise. The boat, which came from Chile, was bound for Italy. The case was referred to the Office of the Anti Drug Prosecutor, who will be responsible for carrying out the investigations. (Prensa)
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Former "Mister Panama" Harry Duncan Will Be Arraigned in Miami on Drug Trafficking Charges Tomorrow

Drug Trafficking
Former
Former "Mr. Panama" Harry Duncan - Arrested while working as a Copa flight attendant, trying to smuggle 4.3 kilos of cocaine through the Miami airport.
The former "Mister Panama" Harry Duncan will appear face a bond hearing today, Monday, in a federal court in Miami, in the United States. And tomorrow, Tuesday, 27 March2012, he will face arraignment, after the seizure of a shipment of cocaine at the Miami International Airport. The information contained on the website Downtown Miami News reported the Panamanian flight attendant who was working for a Panamanian commercial airline tried to introduce a suitcase into the Miami airport on 12 March 2012, where the drugs were found hidden in a suitcase with a false bottom. Duncan told the anti-drug authorities, according to the publication, and a co-worker at the same airline asked him to carry the suitcase and upon his return he would be paid $5,000 dollars. "He (Harry Duncan) has told officials about everyone involved in the alleged crime," confirms the news story. It says no additional arrests have yet been made, based on the information provided. Duncan is being held in a federal detention center in Miami. According to information he had instructions from another flight attendant to meet him later at the Hilton Hotel. The Miami Herald confirmed Duncan was carrying a total of 4.3 kilos of drugs. (Critica)

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Martinelli Attending Drug Trafficking Summit in Guatemala Today

Drug TraffickingPresident Ricardo Martinelli is in the city of Antigua in Guatemala today, Saturday, 24 March 2012, where he will attend the Summit of Central American Presidents, where they will discuss and analyze the strategies to be implemented at a regional level to combat organized crime and drug trafficking. Experts in security and the mechanisms used in the fight against drug trafficking held exhibitions at the summit, and there was a dialogue of the Heads of State and Government, the members of the Central American Integration System (SICA). There were also exhibitors from the World Health Organization of the United Nations, and from the Carter Center. The summit, which is only one day (today), will bring together the presidents of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla and Porfirio Lobo of Honduras. The Panamanian delegation consists of Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez and Deputy Security Minister Alejandro Garuz. (Estrella)
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SENAFRONT Corporal Arrested With 51 Kilos of Cocaine

Drug TraffickingA Corporal of State Border Service (SENAFRONT) was arrested by the narcotics unit of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ), after he was found with a shipment of 51 kilos of suspected cocaine. The arrest of the border officer came as the result of a surveillance operation and it occurred during the early morning hours yesterday, Wednesday, 21 March 2012, after he was intercepted in front of the El Lago residential neighborhood in the area of 24 de Diciembre. The shipment of illicit substances was hidden inside of a gray Nissan Terrano 4x4 gray, with licence plate number 044439, that came from the community of Santa Fe in the province of Darien.

Authorities are investigating to determine the destination of the illegal shipment, and to determine if the officer was doing this during working hours. The case is in the hands of the Second Anti Drug Prosecutor, where they proceeded to start questioning the suspect. In recent months there have been several arrests by the authorities of people trying to move illicit substances in vehicles from the province of Darien, to the capital of Panama City, and then to the Panamanian border with Costa Rica. (Critica)

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Mexican National Caught At Tocumen With 193,000 Euros - Undeclared

Drug Trafficking A Mexican national was arrested at the Tocumen International Airport as he tried to enter Panama carrying 193,000 euros, equivalent to $251,879 dollars US. He had the money hidden inside of the wheels of his luggage, which was detected in the scan area by members of airport security team. So far this year airport authorities have seized more than $1.2 million dollars in undeclared cash from a total of 17 foreigners and one Panamanian citizen. By comparison, last year during the first three months of 2011 Customs officials had seized about $403,000 dollars in undeclared cash. However by the end of the year they had seized a total of more than $4.2 million dollars. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: In Panama, "the drugs go North and the money comes South." The drug traffickers have to get the product to market, and then once it's sold they have to get the cash back home, and then launder it into something that can be used. People tend to be more willing to take the risk of transporting large wads of cash on airplanes. A lot of them get caught in Panama. If you're going to fly into Panama with more than $10,000 dollars in cash, make sure you declare the money on the plane or else it might get taken away from you, and you might get to spend your time in Panama behind bars.

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