With US Support, Panama Bulks Up Anti-Drug Technology

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Panama is improving its police equipment with the purchase of 19 radars, meant to monitor the coastline for drug trafficking.

Data from the radars will be shared with the U.S., Mexico and Colombia, reports the Associated Press. The country bought the radars and six helicopters from Italy for $250 million.

The U.S. will reportedly train Panamanian officials once the radar system is installed. Panama receives relatively limited counternarcotics aid from the U.S. for training and equipment. According to Just the Facts, the country is slated to receive $11.3 million in police aid for the 2012 fiscal year. Since 2007, the U.S. has provided training for 832 Panamanian security personnel.

This is slightly more than the 2012 military and police aid that other Central American nations like Guatemala ($10.9 million), Honduras (about $8 million) and El Salvador ($5.5 million) will receive, according to data kept by Just the Facts.

As noted by the U.S. State Department, Panama’s security forces have significant “institutional weaknesses.” This is not limited to outdated technology. As signaled by the reported firing of about 2,600 police in the past two years, corruption remains a serious problem.

Panama has no military and relies on three security services to fight drug trafficking: the national police (known as PNP), the frontier police (SENAFRONT), and the maritime police (SENAN).

Besides the U.S., Panama’s security forces have also received aid and training from neighboring Colombia in areas like jungle warfare and community policing.

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