HomeNewsPanama Serves as Latest Gateway for Drugs to Europe
NEWS

Panama Serves as Latest Gateway for Drugs to Europe

COCAINE / 3 DEC 2021 BY MARK WILSON EN

Authorities in Panama are intercepting massive loads of cocaine at ports and in coastal waters, showing how the country is increasingly becoming a major transit hub for drugs as traffickers seek new routes to Europe. 

The latest seizure came on November 26, when authorities took in a haul of more than four tons of drugs in three separate maritime interdictions in the Pacific, news outlet Crítica reported. According to Public Security Minister Juan Pino, Panama has seized 177 tons of cocaine and marijuana this year.

SEE ALSO: Panama News and Profile

Just four days prior to the latest seizure, more than three tons of cocaine were discovered in shipping cargo at Colón, a Caribbean port on the mouth of the Panama Canal. The shipping containers were destined for Belgium and African countries, EFE reported.

According to Luis De Gracia, an official with the National Aeronaval Service of Panama (Servicio Nacional Aeronaval de Panamá - Senan), authorities have intercepted more than 20 tons of drugs in shipping containers this year, a massive jump from the three tons seized in 2020.

“It appears the most desired route is toward Europe,” De Gracia said at a news conference, according to a report by AFP.

InSight Crime Analysis

Panama’s central role in the global shipping industry makes it an attractive country for traffickers looking to conceal drugs in maritime cargo.

When moving mass quantities of drugs to Europe, traffickers have typically chosen ports in or near cocaine-producing countries, such as Colombia, Brazil and, most recently, Ecuador.

But cargo arriving from these countries is being scrutinized more closely at major ports in Belgium and the Netherlands, the main gateways for cocaine trafficked into Europe. For this reason, traffickers are moving farther afield to ports in Central American countries like Costa Rica and Panama.

SEE ALSO: Ecuador – Cocaine Superhighway to the US and Europe

Panama being a vital artery for global maritime shipping makes it particularly attractive to smugglers. Some 287 million tons of oceangoing cargo has passed through the Panama Canal this year alone.

Pressure on ports to move vast amounts of cargo quickly onto container ships means that only one in ten containers worldwide gets checked, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The port of Colón, along the northern edge of the Panama Canal, has increasingly become a critical entry point for cocaine. Drug gangs, which have become adept at infiltrating the Colón port through corrupt employees, receive the drugs and smuggle them into cargo. These employees include security guards and dock workers.

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

ARGENTINA / 27 JUL 2021

Drug charges against a woman in Argentina were dropped after prosecutors learned that she had agreed to be a drug…

BRAZIL / 6 DEC 2019

Cocaine seizures in Brazil have hit a record high this year -- with the vast majority of drugs detected in…

COCAINE / 18 MAY 2022

Early investigations indicate the CJNG is striking partnerships with drug rings in Guatemala that receive shipments of cocaine from Colombia…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

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…