It is the main concern of the Panamanian society and, according to analysts, is more so than the aftermath of Covid-19, the economic crisis, unemployment, and the lack of basic services.
On 1 December, the arrest of 57 people associated with Colombia’s Clan del Golfo in the province of Colón, including nine public officials, and the seizure of just over $10 million and dozens of cars and assets, added to concerns about the rise of violence.
For Ebrahim Asvat, the former director of the National Police, there has always been a serious problem of money laundering and criminal organisations in Panama.
However, the difference lies in the fact that nowadays the resolution of disputes between these groups is taking place in public spaces. He explains that the other factor is that there are already youth gangs fighting over territory and when they fall into these disputes, they do so by killing their rivals.
According to the former official, the other factor is the transfer of drugs and money, which is done in coordination with US agencies.
After the most recent seizure of millions [of dollars] by the national authorities, violent events are likely to break out in the coming days.
For Ramiro Jarvis, former director of the National Security Council, it is obvious that this organised crime phenomenon has a negative effect on the Isthmian country.
Jarvis says this situation forces all actors to see the magnitude of the problem and the ability of these criminal organisations to permeate security forces, public institutions, and political groups.
On this issue, Jaime Abad, former director of the Judicial Police, considers that “the tsunami” produced by organised crime will exceed the efforts that officials make in good faith in their institutions, and predicted that only a comprehensive approach to the problem and confronting it will achieve positive effects for social calm.
For his part, Security Minister Juan Pino assured that the crimes that have occurred, even in high-end neighbourhoods, are related to “settling of scores over drug trafficking.” In this regard, Luis Carlos Samudio from the newspaper La Estrella de Panamá drew attention to the presence of organised crime, whose criminal behaviour and deviation from social norms affects third parties who are not part of this conflict.
Samudio insisted that the state is creating different strategies to combat this scourge, but it is still insufficient. (PL)