HomeNewsAnalysisColombia, Panama Sign Border Security Pact
ANALYSIS

Colombia, Panama Sign Border Security Pact

COLOMBIA / 12 FEB 2011 BY HANNAH STONE EN

Colombia and Panama signed an agreement to cooperate in fighting crime along their shared border region, which is a key location for groups trafficking drugs, people, and arms. The deal marks Panama’s increased interest in cooperating with its southern neighbor to secure the Darien region, following a series of confrontations with Colombian armed groups over the last year.

With the newly-signed·Binational Border Security Plan, the latest in a series of joint security efforts, the two countries agreed to coordinate operations in the Darien, the remote and untamed jungle area which is the only land link between Central and South America. The pact aims to to improve intelligence work, increase information-sharing, and protect the local population from armed groups active in the area.

Colombian Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera welcomed the pact, saying that while the geographical position of the two countries made them "a natural location for licit trade routes” it also places them at risk from “organized transnational crime." The Panamanian and Colombian officials·said that as well as the threat from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), the security forces of both countries will be working to combat “other manifestations of transnational crime” in the border region.

The FARC have in recent months been particularly active in the Darien area. Panama’s Security Minister José Mulino said Thursday that the FARC had well-established camps on Panamanian territory, and that the leadership of the FARC’s 57th Front had for some time been based in the border region, where they have established camps housing hundreds of guerrillas. The 57th Front are thought by Colombian authorities to have the mission of expanding the drug trafficking business on the Panama border, and have links to Mexican cartels. This statement follows Mulino’s comments in July 2010 on the rise in guerrilla activity in the border region, when he stated that that “Panama, for the first time, is finding landmines in its territory.” Both Colombia and Panama have also expressed concern about the guerrillas' forced recruitment of local people in the Darien region, including minors and members of indigenous groups.

The increased activity of the FARC in Panama can be explained by two factors. The FARC are increasingly involved in trafficking drugs out of Colombia, which makes it useful for them to have posts in border regions. In addition to this, the security drive begun by former President Alvaro Uribe and continued by current President Juan Manuel Santos has pushed the rebels out of Colombia’s central and urban regions over the last decade, driving the group into more remote regions such as the Darien, and over Colombia’s borders into neighboring countries like Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela.

This rise in rebel activity in the region has led to several clashes between Panama’s security forces and the FARC. Most significant for Panamanian policy was an incident in June 2010 when two border police were seriously injured by landmines which the authorities attributed to the FARC. Both men lost their legs. In response Panama’s government said it would increase efforts to secure the area; Mulino said “We are going to patrol and cover our territory, these people are not going to use our territory as a sanctuary or as a theater of operations,” reported El Espectador.

Colombia has also stepped up operations in the area, and in October 2010 the security forces carried out “Operation Darien,” a bombing raid against the 57th Front which killed commander Luis Mora Pestaña, alias “Silver,” and several other rebel leaders.

Colombia has in recent years been on more friendly terms with Panama’s government than with its neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela. In 2003 Colombia and Panama set up the Bilateral Border Commission (COMBIFRON), a framework to manage cooperation on border security. Colombia also now has COMBIFRON agreements with Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Under the agreement Colombia's intelligence and immigration agency, the DAS, has been working for several years with Panama’s immigration service to share information and coordinate efforts to fight crime. There was less cooperation with previous Panamanian adminstrations than with that of current President Ricadro Martinelli, however. According to emails allegedly found on seized FARC hard drives, Presidents Mireya Moscoso (1999-2004) and Martín Torrijos (2004-2009) made pacts of non-aggression with the guerrilla group, and agreed to tolerate their presence in the border region.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 19 JUL 2012

Authorities in Colombia have discovered that the son of a prominent guerrilla is enlisted in the country's armed forces, creating…

COLOMBIA / 3 APR 2018

The recent arrest in Colombia of two veteran air traffic controllers linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel has once again highlighted…

COLOMBIA / 20 JUL 2018

In our July 19 Facebook Live session, Managing Editor Josefina Salomón and Senior Investigator Angela Olaya discussed the ex guerrillas'…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…