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PANAMA

Calor Calor

PANAMA / LATEST UPDATE NOVEMBER 3, 2021 EN

Calor Calor is one of Panama’s two most powerful gangs along with Bagdad, and the two battle fiercely for territorial control.

“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 crime groups, but who have no internal loyalty and often feud on the street level over microtrafficking.

While Panamanian gangs once mostly engaged in petty crime, today, Calor Calor focuses on providing drug transport and other services to transnational trafficking organizations. Members of Calor Calor also engage in microtrafficking.

The gang has participated in a rapid rise in homicides in the country since 2019 as more and more cocaine has flowed through the country, leading to greater violence between gangs for control of these shipments.

History

Calor Calor’s current structure was formed when the powerful “tumbadores” (drug theft) gang Unión Soviética — where Bagdad has its origins — began decimating other youth gangs. These joined ranks in Calor Calor, which offered youths the protection of a larger, more structured organization.

Its main activity is transporting drugs for sophisticated Colombian and Mexican organized criminal groups, and Calor Calor manages drug trafficking routes and logistics. Gang members are also subcontracted to carry out contract killings and drug robberies and to provide security for drug shipments.

Calor Calor is now one of two main agglomerations of gangs in Panama, along with rival organization Bagdad. Turf battles between the two groups have expanded from the capital, Panama City, into the Panama Oeste province, across the canal.

In 2016, the group’s leader was allegedly Dangelo Ramírez Ramea, although he has denied being the head of the group.

In 2005, Ramírez Ramea allegedly participated in the robbery of $2.5 million from the International Commercial Bank of China in the Colón Free Trade Zone. He was captured in 2009 during an operation in which $1 million in cash was seized, and was reportedly recaptured in 2011 and accused of committing crimes abroad as part of an international organized crime network linked to drug trafficking. Ramírez Ramea has also been investigated for money laundering, extortion and other crimes.

Ramírez Ramea was described as one of the country’s most dangerous criminals by President Juan Carlos Varela in 2015 and was briefly one of the only six inmates in the maximum-security prison of Punta Coco. However, in June 2016, he was absolved of money laundering charges and freed from custody.

José Cossio has also been described as the head of Calor Calor. He has been in prison in Panama since 2015.

Cossio allegedly participated in the 2005 Bank of China robbery, and in 2010 he was arrested in the United States for possession and intent to distribute cocaine. He was again arrested in Panama in 2011 for homicide. Three years later he was linked to the seizure of 191 kilograms of cocaine in Panama’s metropolitan region. Cossio is also suspected of murdering a Panamanian beauty contestant in 2014.

Two months after entering La Joya prison in 2014, he escaped to Costa Rica with Costa Rican associate alias “Kike El Tico.” El Siglo reported that large bribes were apparently paid to to facilitate the escape.

Cossio was captured in Costa Rica and extradited to Panama in 2015. He was briefly held in Punta Coco prison, before being transferred to another facility due to human rights concerns.

Since 2019, Calor Calor appears to have slipped a bit in comparison to Bagdad as far as its criminal reach and control of shipments. However, Bagdad has been weakened by internal rifts, violence between its members and due to being targeted by a sweeping operation between Panamanian security forces and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In October 2021, a leading member of the gang, Jean Carlos Navarro Cunningham, alias “Chombolín,” was shot along with his wife and 3-year-old daughter while driving in Panama City. This was seen as one of the more brazen attempts against the life of a Calor Calor member and symbolic of a worrying pattern of increasing violence in the country.

Leadership

The current leader of Calor Calor is Eduardo Macea, alias Marshall. Marshall is currently in the high-security Punta Coca prison on drug trafficking, homicide and arms trafficking charges. His defense team denies all charges against him, though he is considered highly dangerous by authorities and allegedly has a reputation for violence.

In 2022, local media reported that Macea continued to run the gang's drug-running business from prison.

Geography

The stronghold of Calor Calor is the Panama City district of San Miguelito. The gang is also present in the El Chorrillo, Santa Ana, Calidonia, Río Abajo neighborhoods of the capital, and is strong in Colón, the world’s second biggest free trade zone located on the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal. Bagdad and Calor Calor members often are found in close proximity to each other.

Calor Calor has made a push into Bagdad’s turf in Panama Oeste, causing intense violence between the two groups. The rival blocs allegedly reached a shaky pact in which it was decided that Bagdad would maintain control of La Chorrera district, and Calor Calor of Arraiján district.

Drugs transit along Panama Oeste’s coastline, where the two gangs provide services to trafficking organizations and steal drug shipments.

Calor Calor also sends gang members to the jungle border regions to manage drug trafficking routes.

Allies and Enemies

Calor Calor originated from and remains an agglomeration of numerous youth gangs. Its main rival is Bagdad, another criminal bloc.

Together, they are the two biggest local gangs in Panama and their rivalry centers around control of strategically located ports, shares of the international drug trade, especially the European market and over the personal rivalry between Marshall and the leader of Bagdad, Jaime Powell, alias “Yunya.”

Yunya and Marshall started out working together under Juan Vicente Blandford, alias "El Pátron Juancito, but began fighting in 2014, when members of Calor Calor’s structure moved to Bagdad. Yunya has the reputation of being the less violent of the two criminals, while Marshall has a reputation for ruthlessness. El Pátron Juancito was captured in 2019, but is, reportedly, still trying to unite the two from within prison.

Prospects

Calor Calor’s operations in transnational drug trafficking have become more sophisticated and its role has changed from a subordinate to a subcontractor that brokers shipment of drugs for Colombian and Mexican groups through Panama and beyond, according to InSight Crime field research. Though Calor Calor is likely to remain a middle man in the transnational drug trade, the business is lucrative and the stakes are getting higher.

Because there is more money to be made than when they were first formed, Calor Calor, as well as its rival Bagdad, has responded by consolidating power and upping the violence. Whether they continue to grow in power depends on the effectiveness of Panama’s government policies, which have recently started to change. After coming to power at the end of 2019, the Cortizo Administration has discontinued social and rehabilitation programs, while investing heavily in mano dura security policies and forces.

In 2021, despite Bagdad growing more prominent as Panama's leading gang, the Calor Calor federation of gangs remains a crucial part of Panama's drug trafficking landscape, moving numerous shipments of drugs through the country and running microtrafficking in numerous neighborhoods of Panama City.

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