Drug Trafficking, a vicious Cycle?

The modern world is coupled with a serious problem of habitual drug use and the rampant use of addicting substances. Such drugs and substances include cocaine, alcohol, and bhang among many others. This is the situation that has befallen Panama to the present day. However, deeper exploration into the matter reveals that this has a very critical relationship with the effects which come with historical influences both internationally and nationally.

As Mark, Uhlig (1990) notes about Panama, everyone in Panama and America expected an end to cocaine trafficking across the Panama Canal when Gen. Antonio Noriega was deposed by the invading US troops in December 1989. The report further indicates that he had influenced the deplorable drug trafficking situation by allowing his government to tolerate and promote the act. Panama was formed in 1903 when it was separated from Columbia and made a nation on its own.

However, the construction of the Canal itself began in 1880 under the French, though the final construction and opening of the facility was accomplished by the US in 1914. By this time the canal was a busy hub of economic activities and in addition, there were rebels already in Panama who had started revolting against the US control. The contras of Nicaragua were as a good a threat to the US as were these Panama rebels. The controversy that surrounded the issue is that there seemed to be a bizarre network which had been formed between the rebels and the CIA, (Webb 1996).

Given the experience the smugglers had gained in smuggling cocaine, it would not take a short time to eradicate the menace because a serious complexity had also been introduced by a dark alliance between the contras and the CIA and the rebels and the CIA too. However, Webb (1999) contends that these activities of the traffickers took place in the full knowledge and probably support of the US intelligence. The Panama Canal was then under the control of the US military.

Additionally, this is an information age and the rate at which information flows from one person to another is so fast and more efficient than it was let’s say two decades ago. This factor makes the influence of the international arena on drug trafficking and crime very easy and simple to execute as information is all that is required, (Webb) Panama’s strategic location in the Western Hemisphere gives it an upper hand as a key junction or staging point for smuggling of drugs and execution of criminal activities like illegal money laundering.

These drug shipments have their origin in Colombia and are shipped here for further consignment north of Panama where it borders Colombia. In consequence, Panama forms a crossroads for international crime as a result of its central location between the South and the north of the Americas, its numerous islands, its long coastline, the presence of the Panama Canal and its location next to Colombia, (Braun Michael 2005). Discussion

Despite the fact that Panama is not a major producer of the essentials neither a significant consumer, its strategic location made it possible for the trafficking of drugs like marijuana and cocaine so easy. Garry Webb (1996), reports that the first drug network opened a pipeline between the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles and Colombia’s cocaine alliances. The same source further shows that this powerful drug network increased demand for weapons by supplying the cash and connections or channels required for gangs to acquire them.

This made the mode of life to circulate and rotate around drugs and crime. Great impact is felt in Nicaragua, Colombia and the Caribbean countries as the Panama Canal is used as a transit hub for the drugs. When the military regime of Noriega was removed from power it was hoped that the drug problems would be solved once and for good. Nevertheless, the result was that even the regime that followed was faced with severe political and economic same challenges hence the Guillermo’s regime ended up perpetuating the drug trafficking sag, (Karl Witty, New York).

Since the main reason why the US deposed Noriega’s military regime was drug trafficking and it was supported by both the Panamanians and the Americans, the Perez Balladeer’s PRD as well failed on grounds of inability to stabilize the internal security situation in Panama and therefore did not get any support from the people losing the elections to Mireya Moscoso- opposition candidate. Into the bargain, the PRD was still crippled with corruption, drug trafficking and the use of Panama as a major transportation hub for money and drugs by the Colombian drug cartels and Nicaraguan black- marketers.

Hence, it was almost evident that every administration that came into power followed in the footsteps of its predecessors; making trafficking of drugs a commonplace activity within the region and thus leading to its development into a kind of vicious cycle. (Buckley, 1991) In 1999 when Mireya Moscoso won the elections, there were other events which formed a defining line to the situation in Panama and which were likely to change its development of events. In the forefront of the events was the augmented incursion into the Panamanian territory by Colombian paramilitary groups and guerrillas.

When the boarders of any nation or state succumb to porosity, black marketers’ activities get amplified to greater intensity hence making it possible for them to carry out their ‘business’ unheeded. The second event was the handing over of the control of the Panama Canal by the US government to Panamanian control. Drug Cultivation, Production and Traffic Trend Marijuana in Panama is primarily produced for domestic consumption since cultivation of cannabis is done on a limited scale in the Las Perlas Islands.

Panama being a hub for the transit of cocaine and other drugs produced in South-America, there is passage of drug shipments by sea, land and air routes. Traffickers repackage the cocaine for transportation along Pan-American Highway northward once it is in Panama. Small planes are the means used to bring cocaine in Panama. Smaller amounts of heroin and cocaine are transported by couriers to Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK on commercial flights. Within the first half of 2001, Law enforcement agencies in Panama reported confiscating about 2,220 kg of cocaine.

In contrast, seizures reported in the previous year had totaled to about 9,200 kilograms with cocaine totaling to 6,640 kilograms of the quantity seized. 1998 seizure totals were the highest adding to 11,771 kilograms cocaine alone and 16,530 kilograms of marijuana. Indications revealed by seizures and intelligence reporting show that smuggling through small private and large commercial vessels transiting with cargo in Panamanian ports continue to be the most utilized transshipment method available for drug trafficking.

The challenge to law enforcement officials is complicated further by the ease with which illegal drugs are stored in Panama to be repackaged and/or concealed with other durable goods for onward shipment. A significant seizure of cocaine from maritime cargo occurred on 17th July, 2000, when National Maritime Service (SMN) officials seized over 240 kilograms of cocaine that had been hidden in the phony floors of five sport utility trucks en route to Germany.

A second important maritime seizure occurred on December 7, 2000, when Panamanian Customs officers working in the CFZ seized 326 kilograms of cocaine that had been hidden in a shipment of 30 boxes of shoes destined for Spain. A third key seizure correlated to maritime transportation, a shipment of over 650 kilograms concealed in cardboard boxes having clothing, was apprehended by the National Police from a residence on December 2000. This shipment was headed for a transfer to a warehouse in the CFZ, where it was to be commingled with genuine cargo.

South American heroin is smuggled through Tocumen International Airport via false-bottom suitcases and internal/external body-carry methods. Although many couriers were detected and detained by Panamanian Customs during 2000, heroin couriers incoming at Tocumen International Airport are progressively more switching travel documents and identification on arrival. This strategy permits the courier to stay in the International Arrival/Departure area without clearing Immigration or Customs. Solutions

What history therefore shows is that weak Panamanian public institutions and feeble law enforcement are additional contributing factors which make Panama attractive drug to smugglers, (Webb 1999). In 19194, legislation was passed in Panama which established penalties illicit production, consumption or use, and conveyance of precursor and essential chemicals. A year later, officials examined more than a dozen companies based on US Government information but surprising enough, none of the companies was charged with violations, (Braun 2005).

The strategic approaches that could be used to arrest this situation of smuggling problem can be separated into two discrete approaches: reduction of supply and reduction of demand. Due to the demand created secretly, the traffickers are able to come up with channels and strategies to supply them. Drug Trafficking Trends and Money Laundering Panama’s financial institutions remain vulnerable to illicit financial transactions like money laundering. This is due to its location as an international commercial and financial center.

To facilitate this money laundering activity is the fact that Panama has advanced and well developed financial services sector which major drug cartels use. Panama also has weak controls on cash, imports, exports and commodity in addition to well established dollar-based economy. Of course money laundering is a major boost to the drug trafficking black-market as the drug traffickers use the same sophisticated laundering techniques to carry out their activities (Webb 1999). Intelligence information reiterates a number of drug trans-shipment trends in relation to Panama.

Through a critical look or study of these trends, we are able to understand the means and ways of checking the trafficking of drugs and money laundering activities. The first of the trends is the staging of big cargo vessels from Panama for enormous drug deliveries. Drugs are also incessantly hidden inn the commercial maritime containers and cargo, (Witty 2005). Coastal freighters continuously move weapons, smuggled goods and drugs between Panama and the Colombian North coast. Other trends applied, (Braun 2005), are as follows:

? Fishing vessels from Panama are staged for eastern Pacific drug transshipments from Panama between Colombia and Mexico ? Heroin courier operations of the international airport have increased ? Shipment of large quantities of drugs by use of the great Pan-American Highway CONCLUSION The trends discussed above when taken together show that Panama is still a crossroads for smugglers and its significance in the transshipment of cocaine to the United States from South America is growing. In addition, Panama has had both positive and negative developments in regard to its experience on drug enforcement efforts.

The incursion of paramilitary groups, drug traffickers and Colombian guerillas received extensive press attention in 2000 making the citizens to be wary of security dangers facing their country. This awareness and general public concern has increased bilateral cooperation between the US and Panama. Thus lawlessness and lack of accountability among the legal agencies can be a terrible impediment to fight against drug trafficking and smuggling, money laundering and all other vices that are undesirable to development, (Zimbalist 1991).

In the contemporary society, celebrities now play a major role in influencing young people on the issue of drugs due to the extremely high status they have acquired. Thus it is imperative to reduce the urge and demand for drugs by youths as created by developments in media coverage which re-position the celebrity as the model best followed by the society’s future posterity, (Maltby & Giles, 2004). Works Cited: Webb, Gary. Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. Seven Stories Press, 1999. Webb, Gary.

Dark Alliance: Cocaine pipeline: Evidence points to CIA; San Jose News, August 1996 Braun, Michael A. , The Illicit Drug Transit Zone in Central America” DEA Congressional Testimony November 9, 2005 Zimbalist, A. S. , Panama at the Crossroads; New York, 1991. Buckley, Kevin. Panama: The Whole Story, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1991. Maltby, J and Giles, D. C. ‘The Role of Media Celebrities in Adolescent Development. ’ Personality and Individual Differences 36 (2004): 813-822. Karl, W. The Effects of Drug use by Celebrities upon Young People, URL: http://www. drugpreventionevi