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Saturday, April 19 2014 @ 03:44 PM EDT

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175 Kilos Of Cocaine Discovered In The Back Seat Of A Car in Colon

Drug TraffickingAbout 175 kilos of cocaine were found by units of the Judicial Investigation Department of the National Police, in a vehicle that was abandoned on the main road in the sector of La Verbena, in the village of Cristobal, Colon. The detectives in coordination with the Anti Drug Prosecutor's Office found seven sacks with the drugs in the back seat of the car. The seizure came after authorities received a tip about the presence of some strangers who left the area at high speed, in a gray vehicle with license plate number 689251. The drugs were turned over to the anti drug prosecutor, while the detectives are conducting their investigation to find the whereabouts of those responsible. (TVN)

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Panama Is Third In Drug Seizures - Responsible For 8% Of Total

Drug TraffickingPanama is third in the total amount of drug seizures, behind Colombia and the United States, responsible for 8% of all seizures according to a report presented today, Tuesday, 26 June 2012, on seizures, drug consumption and production in Central America. The document also said the most consumed drug worldwide is cannabis (marijuana) - used by 234 million people.

The report was presented at the Foreign Ministry and was attended by Public Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino; Panama's Deputy Foreign Minister, Francisco Alvarez de Soto, and from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Armando Phillips. It was known there are 16 million drug addicts worldwide.

Editor's Comment: Panama is third overall? More seizures than Mexico? Really?

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SENAFRONT Drug Bust in Jaqué in the Darién

Drug TraffickingOfficers of the State Border Service (SENAFRONT) from the Pacific Battalion stationed in Jaqué in the Darién seized 141 packages of presumed cocaine found hidden in the false bottom of a boat. The discovery was made ​​yesterday afternoon, where two Colombian citizens were involved, named Carlos Augusto Padilla and Cristian Javier Vente. It was learned their boat named the "Bruja" was seized at Playa Pitalito, reaching the border with Colombia in the province of the Darien, where the crew supposedly had some collaboration with some of the residents in Jaqué and Piña. The director of the SENAFRONT, Frank Abrego, said they will keep a constant vigilance in these border areas to ensure the welfare and peace of the peoples. The Anti Drug Prosecutor Javier Caraballo did not rule out the possibility of the participation of Mexicans in a number of murders in Panama that could also be related to drug trafficking. (TVN)
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Six Assassinations Over Theft Of 500 Kilos of Cocaine

Drug TraffickingThe Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) said the executions of six people in Panama City a few weeks ago are linked to a theft of 500 kilos of cocaine in March, at the landing in Juan Diaz. The victims were Héctor Javier Castillo, Leoncio Pinto Castillo, Juan González, Luis Cadir Cerrud, Ángel Barría and another person who was not identified. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: In Panama they use the expression "tumbe de drogas" mostly to indicate the crime and theft between rival gangs of drug traffickers. It comes from the verb "tumbar" which means to knock down. So, it sort of feels like the English language expression "take down" or something like that. In Panama the drug traffickers and money launderers not only have to worry about law enforcement, legal authorities, and the possibility of getting busted. They are even more afraid of heavily armed rival gangs who would shoot them dead in order to steal the cocaine they are trafficking, or the money they are laundering. Much of the time, like in this case, the authorities are just following the trial of bodies around, cleaning up the mess, and trying to figure out who's doing what to whom.

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Four Bags Filled With Cocaine Found Inside Shipping Container Full Of Wood

Drug TraffickingThe seizure took place under an intelligence operation called "Operation Puerto" which resulted in the seizure of the illegal substance that was found in four sports backpacks. The drugs, located by the authorities, was inside a shipping container loaded with wood that was about to depart Panama. The director of the DIJ, Manuel Moreno, said their investigations will determine if the drugs were introduced into the container in Panama or if it was already on the boat; they will also be checking to see if the seals had been tampered with. Moreno said the Drug Prosecutor's Office in conjunction with the DIJ have information about the people who are likely to be linked to that seizure. It is expected in the coming hours they will have more information about the shipment. The fight against drug trafficking takes place across the country, as these nefarious goods threaten the lives of thousands of people, including many young people who fall into the clutches of the drug with deadly strings in all its manifestations. (Critica)

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Man Busted With 40 Kilos of Cocaine in Anton

Drug TraffickingA man was arrested last night after 40 kilos of drugs were found in his truck. The 32 year old man was heading towards Paso Canoas in Chiriqui, but was stopped at a checkpoint in Anton, where the police searched the vehicle and confiscated the illegal substance. Besides the drugs they also found 140 packets of smuggled cigarettes. (Dia a Dia)

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Drug Bust in Doleguita, David

Drug TraffickingNational Police units in conjunction with agents from the Anti Drug Prosecutor's Office broke up a drug sales and distribution center located in a rented rooms in the neighborhood of Doleguita in David. During the operation a 23 year old suspect was arrested, and officials seized 15 clear plastic bags holding a white powder presumed to be cocaine. They also found cash, computers, televisions and stereos. (Telemetro)

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A Drug Trafficker Ordered The Murder Of Former Governor of Cocle

Drug TraffickingThe murder of the former governor of Cocle Dario Fernandez was an assassination ordered by a Colombian drug trafficker who paid $35,000 for the hit, according to statements by a witness who is being protected by the Public Ministry. The witness, who testified before an investigating judge of Cocle on 1 June 2012 and again yesterday, said he knows about what happened due to statements made by the murderer, Miguel Ángel Arner, alias Pícoro. In this version, Arner was hired by people close to the drug trafficking, who he did not identify, and in turn he hired Joel Guerra (to do the job). Both were paid $15,000 dollars.

According to the witness, Arner and Guerra went to Penonomé in a Mitsubishi Eclipse sedan in order to kill Fernandez, and there they were received by Nelson Cubillas, alias "Fello," in the home of his girlfriend, alias "China." After that meeting, the group went to the radio station owned by Fernandez, Mi Preferida, and while "Fello" remained outside watching while "China", Guerra, and Arner entered the radio station. Because the former governor was not there, they went to his house guided by "China", and in the vicinity of Dario Fernandez's house they split up. "China" and Guerra served as lookouts, while Arner stood outside nearby.

At this point in the story, the witness did not specify the location of "Fello" or the driver of the car, whose name was not made known to the authorities, or at least it was not included in the transcript of his statement, to which this newspaper (La Prensa) had access. Anyway, he said when "China" saw that Fernandez was approaching the house together with his wife and one of his sons, she signaled Arner to ready the weapon. He took a risk, approached the former governor and shot him twice in the head.

Upon seeing what had happened, Fernandez's son chased Arner for a moment, but Arner shot at him and forced him to take cover behind a car, and Arner took advantage of the distraction to leave the area through an alley known as the Perra Brava. According to the witness, the group then went to a pasture "beyond Anton" and boarded a helicopter bound for the capital (Panama City.) "China," "Fello," Arner and Guerra boarded the helicopter, while the driver of the Eclipse drove it back to town. Upon arriving in Panama City, Arner and Guerra received their pay, and as he told the story "Fello" and "China" received another $20,000 dollars.

The reason why Fernandez was killed has to do, according to this whole story, we because he signed an eviction order for some land in the Northern part of the province of Cocle, where the Colombian introduced drug shipments into the country. The land, according to the witness, bordered a river and they used this to introduce the drug shipments. Although the Public Ministry witness provides no details of when Fernandez ordered the eviction from this land, it follows that it must have occurred when he was the governor of Cocle during the administration of Martin Torrijos, between 2004 and 2009.

In connection with the murder weapon, Arner told the witness he had hidden ("encaletado") the weapon at a site that only he and a young man nicknamed "Gordito" knew about, but when he was asked the reasons for the latter, after being apprehended as a suspect in January of this year, the boy told him he had moved it to a site in Arraiján and later he lost track of it. The statements of this witness also shows that Arner, Guerra, and "Gordito" belonged to a gang named Los Barracudos, which operates in Santa Ana and whose leader, Carlos Emilio Bárcenas, alias "Calito Sida", was shot last Tuesday in the sector of Los Llanos de Felipillo, in the township of 24 de Diciembre.

According to the story of the witness, "Calito Sida" had faced off with "Fello" after the murder of Fernandez and threatened to retaliate against him if he "got his (friends) in trouble." Official records show that so far in this case the following people have been arrested - Joel Guerra, charged as an offender; Miguel Ángel Arner, charged as an accomplice; Deysi Iveth Quirós Natal ("China"), also as an accomplice, and Julián Alfredo Nouvet Conte, the driver of the Eclipse vehicle. There are no reports on the location of "Fello", and the suspect who was initially detained by the authorities, Gamal Gordon, was later released. (Prensa)

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Three Arrested With Liquid Cocaine Filled Condoms in San Francisco, Panama City

Drug TraffickingThree subjects of different nationalities were arrested Monday night on via Porras in San Francisco, while transporting illicit substances. The arrest was made at ten o'clock at night, while the police conducted a patrol in this sector. The suspicious attitude of the foreigners alerted police, who asked them to stop. The police officers searched their vehicle and discovered the individuals were carrying a shoe box containing 87 tubes of liquid in latex condoms. A field test found they were filled with liquid cocaine. Two of the three subjects are sailors (working on passing ships) who intended to deliver the goods to other foreigners, for transportation to the European market. Of the three arrested, there was one Colombian, one Croatian, and one from Montenegro. All three were turned over to prosecutors. (Siglo)
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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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