Hitmen taking over streets of Panama
PANAMA. For many years Panama was considered a safe and sound country. For the last decade, that peace has been broken by the Colombia...
PANAMA. For many years Panama was considered a safe and sound country. For the last decade, that peace has been broken by the Colombian mafia, who have turned Panama into the center of operations for hitmen, playing out rivalries with other foreign drug dealers, according to reports by Interpol.
The report shows that the number of Colombian assassins on Panamanian streets keeps increasing.
Less than two weeks ago, in mid-daylight, the Panamanian Alexander Alberto Justiniani, with close links to notorious narco trafficker David Viteri Rueda, was murdered in San Miguelito.
The 48 year old Justiniani was just released from jail, where he was serving time for a drug trafficking case, when he was attacked by two hitmen on a motorcycle.
This is not the first of such cases in Panama.
In July 2003 a similar case hogged the front page of tabloids. One man dresses up as a clown and driving a motorcycle shot a man nicknamed “El Faraon” in the first floor of a building in Via Brasil.
HITMEN IN PANAMA
“Everything pointed to the fact that this case was the beginning of a wave of Colombian style executions. Time proved us right,” said an Interpol investigator.
Another murder that shocked Panamanians took place on February 22, 2008 when the Panamanian reggae singer Alonso Blackwood, known as “Danger Man”, was ambushed by several men in the neighborhood of La Riviera in Don Bosco.
The violent phenomenon that today affects Panamanian society is nothing more than the crude reality that many Colombian departments have lived with for over 30 years.
Cases of hired assassins have significantly increased.
Official statistics show that 2008 saw 593 homicides, of which 51 were public executions by hitmen on motorcycles and in cars in Panama, Colon, San Miguelito, Arraijan, and David.
The numbers also show that in 2008, another 103 men were found dead with gun shots in the neck in remote areas in Panama City and Colon.
Meanwhile, in 2007 police reported 444 homicides throughout the country, of which 22 were executions by hitmen on motorcycles and cars.
This year, the violence spiral remains on the streets of Panama. In only a month and a half, 67 homicides have been recorded, of which 11 have been drug trafficking account settings.
The assistant prosecutor in charge, Eduardo Guevara, said that assassinations in Panama originate in disputes between Colombian and Mexican drug gangs over the control of routes for the shipment of drugs for the United States markets.
Assistant Prosecutor Guevara referred to the execution of Colombians, Jose Antonio Bello and Idler Hernandez, whose bodies were found in Veracruz with gun shot wounds in the head.
Both Colombians had recently entered Panama as tourists, and it seems the Mexican mafia was tracking their steps.
For the First Drugs Prosecutor, Jose Abel Almengor, the Colombian cartels were the only ones who controlled the business for over 15 years.
However, for a couple of years they have been losing ground to the Mexican mafia, which has unleashed a series of executions by hitmen.
According to Almengor, narcos and hitmen have invaded Panama, as the Mexican and Colombian governments have been closing their doors to them with the help of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The Judicial Investigation Directive (DIJ) showed that the assassinations in Panama are related to the 350 “tumbadores” in Panama. Tumbadores are gangs that set out to steal drugs from other gangs.
The DIJ also says that hiring these hitmen – whether they are Colombians or Panamanians— occurs most of the time when a narco trafficker steals a significant amount of drugs or money.
Hitmen are sent to settle the account and get paid between $2,500 and $50,000 depending on the profile of the target.
Meanwhile, the deputy director of the National Migration Service, Tayra Barsallo, said that one of the formulas to detect hitmen entering the country is through the exchange of information with other countries in the region.
Barsallo said that in the next couple of months a new system will be installed that will allow local authorities to know the police record of those entering the country.
The former First Drugs Prosecutor, Rosen Miranda, said that in order to fight against assassins, there is a need for better communication among State security authorities in order to detect hitmen entering the country.
“Greater migration controls need to be put in place to know who is entering the country,” he said.
Miranda believes the country needs to create an immigration police force and redouble surveillance in ports and airports, especially on border areas, where more than 75 percent of cocaine coming from Colombian cartels enters the country.