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Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - Panama

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 18 August 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - Panama, 18 August 2011, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: The most direct counterterrorism challenge facing Panama is a unit of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which used the remote Darien Region as a safe haven. The safety of the Panama Canal continued to benefit from the Government of Panama's solid stewardship and support of the annual PANAMAX exercise, a multinational security training exercise tailored to the defense of the canal, perhaps the region's most important infrastructure component.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: The Government of Panama's determination to exercise its sovereignty in the Darien through more aggressive patrolling by security forces has increasingly brought FARC combatants in direct contact with Panamanian forces. In January, three FARC members were killed and two were captured during a confrontation with Panamanian border police in the Darien, and in June two border police were injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), presumably placed by the FARC. Eight local Panamanians were subsequently arrested for collaborating with the FARC. In October, the Colombian military bombed a FARC camp near the Panamanian border, killing one mid-level commander and several other members. Finally, in December, Panama brought to trial three presumed members of the FARC 57th front captured after a February 2008 confrontation with border police in the Darien; the trial is one of the first held in Panama specifically on terrorism charges.

The United States and Panama continued to plan for incidents that could potentially shut down transit through the Panama Canal. In September, Panama co-hosted the annual PANAMAX exercise, a multinational security training exercise initiated in 2003 that focuses on the security of the canal. The exercise replicates real world threats and includes specific exercises designed to counter terrorist attacks. Several U.S. government agencies participated in the exercise.

In November, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano signed a memorandum of understanding with Panama to collect and interpret Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) data to target potentially dangerous and criminal passengers on all flights in and out of Panama, complementing data already being shared between Panama and the United States.

Panama continued its participation in the Container Security Initiative at Balboa and Manzanillo, and the Evergreen Colon Container Terminal. The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) sponsored Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) has supplemented instructional training and professional development with Mobile Training Teams and conferences.

Countering Terrorist Finance: The factors that have contributed to Panama's growth and financial sophistication – the large number of offshore banks and shell companies, the presence of the world's second-largest free trade zone, the growth in ports and maritime industries, and the use of the U.S. dollar as the official currency – also provided the infrastructure for significant money laundering activity. While Panama has taken extensive measures to counter money laundering in the banking system, the Colon Free Trade Zone's significant revenue turnover and cash-intensive transactions left the area vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing. In October, Panama passed Law 67, which among other actions now requires the declaration of cash or merchandise valued at $10,000 or over when leaving the country, consistent with FATF Special Recommendation IX. The Government of Panama cooperated fully in reviewing terrorist finance lists.

Regional and International Cooperation: Panama hosted a September meeting on terrorism legislation sponsored by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, and participated actively in meetings sponsored by the OAS/Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism and the FATF. In October, Panama attended a regional demobilization conference in Bogota sponsored by Ameripol, an association of Latin American police forces. Panama signed the Beijing Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation and the Beijing Protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft shortly after the conclusion of an International Civil Aviation Organization diplomatic conference in September.

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