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Panama

Panama’s location connecting Central and South America has made it a key transit point for illicit trade, as well as a refuge and negotiating area for criminal organizations. Its favorable economy and the booming contraband market of the Colón Free Zone (CFZ) have long attracted international money launderers.

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Bagdad

PANAMA / 2021-05-05

Bagdad, along with its rival Calor Calor, is one of Panama’s two main gang federations, consisting of 30-40 smaller gangs that work together to fulfill drug transportation for transnational organized…

Can DEA Dismantle Panama’s Top Gang?

NEWS / 26 APR 2021

US counterdrug agents and authorities in Panama have recently targeted one of the country's largest gangs, revealing its ability to coordinate drug shipments northward. But the group, known as Bagdad,…

Costa Rica Cocaine Theft Ring Relies on Crooked Agents

NEWS / 13 APR 2021

The dismantling of a Costa Rican drug gang that worked with agents in an elite investigative unit to steal cocaine shipments from rival traffickers is yet another sign of the…

Panama Profile

Criminal Actors

Armed Groups

As the gateway between Central and South America, Panama has been used by powerful criminal groups – from Colombian guerillas to Mexican cartels – as a refuge and staging area. The country is also home to two local gang networks: Calor Calor and Bagdad. Gang conflicts over street-level crimes are blamed for much of the violence in Panama City and across the canal in West Panama province. Trafficking groups are known to contract the gangs to carry out killings and drug robberies, and to secure cocaine shipments.

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News

AUC / 9 FEB 2021

Operation ‘Tiburón Galloway’ began as a local investigation by prosecutors in the Italian region of Calabria in 2001, but quickly snowballed into a multinational, multiagency investigation.

COCAINE / 9 FEB 2021

On April 30, 1984, the Mercedes taking Colombian Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla home after work was strafed with machine gun fire.

CACHIROS / 28 DEC 2020

A rush of drug plane traffic from South America, coupled with traffickers smuggling large cocaine shipments after coronavirus border restrictions eased, led to a surge in narcotics transiting Central America…

BAGDAD / 26 NOV 2020

A burst of attempted contraband smuggling into Panama’s largest prison complex has challenged governments claims about the success of recent reforms in bolstering security within the country’s penitentiaries, as well…

CONTRABAND / 3 NOV 2020

A sizeable seizure of adulterated rum shipped to Honduras from Europe reveals the extent to which black markets for alcohol in Latin America have expanded in response to limits on…

COCAINE / 25 SEP 2020

Authorities in Panama’s northwestern province of Bocas del Toro have intercepted a string of vessels carrying large amounts of cocaine, a sign that traffickers are using the archipelago as…

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