U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2005 - Panama

Panama's primary counterterrorism concerns are protecting the Panama Canal and preventing Colombian narcoterrorists from gaining greater influence in the country.

Panama has invested heavily in security infrastructure for the Canal and in national security planning and preparedness, focusing on improving inter-service cooperation through exercises and joint operations. Panama provides enhanced force protection for U.S. warships transiting the Canal, and provided enhanced security for 80 ships carrying nuclear waste or nuclear cargo through the Canal. Panama hosted PANAMAX, an annual multinational counterterrorism exercise that simulates the defense of the Canal from terrorist attack.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) routinely enter the remote Panamanian province of Darien for rest and refitting. They have killed Panamanians, taken hostages, and proselytized to captive audiences. Panamanian public security forces in the area, while increasing in number, are under formal or informal orders to avoid armed confrontation with these narcoterrorists.

Panama has no army. However, the Panamanian National Police (PNP), with U.S. training and assistance, has established a permanent presence along the Colombian border to try to discourage narcoterrorist operations. As part of its Secure Trade and Transportation Initiative, the government is considering creating a dedicated border control force. Panama maintains a border security cooperation agreement with Colombia for sharing cross-border security information and facilitating security force cooperation on narcoterrorist and illegal migrant issues.

Panama's Foreign Ministry, Council for Public Security and National Defense, Financial Analysis Unit, and Superintendent of Banks were fully cooperative in reviewing terrorism finance lists and played a leadership role in helping other countries in the region improve standards. The Panamanian legislature passed new legislation restricting possession of precursor chemicals and toughening laws on money laundering.


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