Panama: coronavirus has not stopped drug trafficking
The coronavirus pandemic has not stopped drug trafficking activities in the region, Panamanian authorities warned Monday when reporting the seizure of 1,713 kilos of cocaine and the arrest of two Costa Ricans, a Colombian and a Nicaraguan linked to drugs.
The four foreigners were manning a boat that was captured after a persecution in the waters of the Panamanian Caribbean, north of the indigenous community of El Porvenir, in an operation in which units of the National Aeronaval Service , the Drug Prosecutor's Office participated and that included air support from Colombia and the United States.
The authorities told the press that during the first weeks of the pandemic there was a reduction in drug trafficking activity, but pointed out that criminal groups quickly resumed activities and that it is very likely that at the end of the year drug seizures will be similar to those of 2019 or possibly greater.
In a pandemic we have two situations: the first weeks obviously there was a downturn in terms of this type of seizure ... however, it should be noted that criminal groups have a great capacity to adapt and after a month and a half of pandemic these groups they adapted and the flow of cases and this type of drug-related crime began again, explained Javier Caraballo, coordinator of the anti-drug strategy of the Public Ministry of Panama.
Prosecutor Caraballo stressed that it is highly probable that drug trafficking groups have stored large quantities of drugs in the countries of production and that they now intend to traffic using vessels that can transport more quantities. He said that this would explain that in recent months the authorities have achieved seizures of more than one ton.
For his part, Commissioner Edson Castillo, national director of operations of the Naval Air Service of Panama, pointed out that so far in 2020 the institution has confiscated 44 tons of drugs, mainly cocaine.
We are very close to reaching the 2019 seizures and we may exceed it, he said. Last year seizures reached 53 tons.
Caraballo explained that so far this year the authorities have intel about 1,300 people, Panamanians and foreigners, involved in drug crimes.
Panama - with coasts in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean - is an important route for the transfer of drugs from its neighbor Colombia, bound for the United States and Europe, according to experts.