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Drug trafficking in Central America remains prevalent during pandemic, authorities say

November 24, 2020

Drug trafficking to the United States, through Central America, has managed to keep pace despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Panamanian authorities warned Monday after presenting 1.7 tons of cocaine seized in the Caribbean of that Central American country.

“This year, we are culminating with the same or perhaps a little more than the amount of drugs seized in previous years,” anti-drug prosecutor Javier Caraballo said at a press conference.

During the first weeks of the pandemic “there was a drop in terms of seizures,” but after a month and a half, drug traffickers adapted to the situation and “the flow began again.”

According to Caraballo, so far this year Panama has seized more than 50 tons of different drugs, the vast majority of them cocaine that is intended for the United States.

The director of operations of the National Aeronaval Service (Senan), Edson Castillo, said that this police institution alone has seized 44 tons of drugs this year, mostly in the Caribbean. It seized 53 tons in 2019.

In 2019, Panama broke its record for seizures, with almost 91 tons — mostly cocaine. That figure exceeded the previous mark of 85 tons in 2017.

Caraballo also noted that in 2020, more than 1,300 people have been arrested for their alleged links to drug trafficking, mostly Panamanians and Colombians.

Caraballo believes that earlier during the pandemic, criminal groups in the producing countries were storing “large quantities” of drugs that now need to be exported quickly and in large quantities to consuming countries.

The statements came Monday during the presentation of a recent drug seizure, where the Panamanian police seized 1,713 packages of cocaine, approximately one kilogram each, after capturing a speedboat in the Panamanian Caribbean.

According to authorities, the operation — in which air resources from the United States and Colombia also participated — also detained the boat’s four crew members: two Costa Ricans, one of them a minor, a Nicaraguan and a Colombian.

Panama has become the entrance to the Central American corridor that drug traffickers use to transport drugs from Colombia and other South American countries to the United States, the world’s largest consumer.

With the help of the United States, Colombia and Costa Rica, the authorities of these countries seek to curb drug trafficking in the region.

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