HomeNewsBriefPanama's New President Offers Gang Amnesty
BRIEF

Panama's New President Offers Gang Amnesty

PANAMA / 3 JUL 2014 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

Panama's new president has offered a one-month amnesty period for gang members to disarm and cut their ties with organized crime, signalling his administration's willingness to pursue alternative strategies to combat the growing gang problem.

In a speech at his swearing-in ceremony on July 1, President Juan Carlos Varela addressed the "more than 200 gangs that operate in the country," offering them until August 1 to disarm. He urged the gang members to reintegrate into society, and warned that those who did not would be treated with a "firm hand."

Varela first proposed the idea of looking for alternative solutions to the country's gang problem when he was vice president in 2013. He said that security problems could not be solved without a dialogue with the gangs, reported AFP.

Some gang members have expressed a willingness to lay down their weapons and reintegrate into society. In June, 19 gang leaders called for a disarmament pact, including the head of one of the most powerful groups, "Los Chinches." According to the Institute for the Prevention of Crime, more than 35 percent of gang members in David -- a city with a significant gang problem near the Costa Rica border -- have expressed interest in reintegration.

InSight Crime Analysis

Gangs are a growing problem in Panama. According to a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report (pdf), the number of gangs has risen significantly over the last five years from 200 groups in 2008 to an estimated 355 in 2013. The number of gang members has increased more than fourfold in recent years from 1,385 in 2007 to 7,500 in 2012. 

Gangs are also responsible for a significant portion of the country's homicides. Of the murders committed in 2012, 23 percent were related to gangs or other organized criminal groups.

SEE ALSO:Coverage of Panama

Varela's amnesty offer demonstrates a willingness to look for alternative solutions to the country's gang problem. Previous President Ricardo Martinelli announced in August 2011 that he would meet with gang leaders to persuade them to renounce crime, though this did not appear to yield results.

Other countries in the region have also attempted alternative solutions to gang violence, but with limited success. El Salvador's 2012 gang truce initially improved security, but has been declared a failure by the country's then-President Mauricio Funes. Belize also adopted a gang truce program in 2011 in which the government provided work opportunities for gang members, but ended the initiative in 2012 stating that it had become too expensive. 

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

BARRIO 18 / 1 JUN 2016

El Salvador's police reportedly killed 346 gang members in violent confrontations so far this year, once again raising concerns that the…

EL SALVADOR / 25 JUL 2018

Lawmakers in Nicaragua recently approved an anti-terrorism law that many fear will be used to criminalize the opposition amid a…

HUMAN RIGHTS / 10 APR 2017

A video recorded in a Panama prison showing inmates holding weapons casts new doubts on the state of the country's…

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…