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

COLOMBIA / 13 MAR 2018

US President Donald Trump has announced that current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be replaced by CIA Director…

ELITES AND CRIME / 13 JUN 2017

Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli has been arrested in Miami and may now be extradited to face multiple criminal charges…

AUC / 30 AUG 2021

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was the pioneer in industrial-scale cocaine trafficking.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…