Panama's location connecting Central and South America has historically made it a key transit point in illegal trafficking routes, as well as a refuge and negotiating area for criminal organizations. Its favorable economy and the Colon Free Trade Zone (CFZ)'s booming contraband market have long attracted international money launderers.
The country's weak judicial system and high levels of corruption have allowed for transnational networks to make inroads, including Colombian guerrilla groups and Mexican cartels.
Panama's pandillas -- local street gangs -- often collaborate with larger drug trafficking organizations, and as the amount of drugs passing through the country has risen over recent years, so has violent crime.
Despite being the fastest growing economy in Latin America, the poverty rate remains high.