The governments of Colombia and Panama made a public agreement on Monday to increase coordination in countering organized crime and guerrilla insurgency along their common border.
This after the two countries recently signed a free trade agreement, the central focus of which was improving border security and anti-smuggling measures.
At a meeting in Panama City, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, who was on a state visit to the Central American country, made the joint declaration with Panamanian Minister of Public Security, Jose Raul Mulino.
Mulino said at a press conference that the agreement will allow for greater cooperation and training of the two countries’ security and military personnel and will increase efficiency in counter-insurgency and the fight against organized crime along the countries’ shared border.
According to official sources, Pinzon was in Panama with a group of senior Colombian officials to put forward a bilateral agenda for security issues. Pinzon said after the meeting that the two countries set forth an agreement to increase cooperation in matters including information, training in specialized operations, public safety and fighting crime.
He added that 4,000 Panamanian police agents have already been trained in Colombia and that he hopes for shared training operations to continue.
The ministers also discussed regional issues such as how they can “serve as a bridge” and set an example for other countries in Central America and the Caribbean in coordinating defense and security operations.
The border region, and its infamous “Darién Gap,” has long been known for its remoteness, danger and continued guerrilla presence. The area is part the FARC’s 57th Front and incidents have occurred at the hands of both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries.
In 2000, British travelers Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder were kidnapped by the Colombia’s largest armed rebel group the FARC while rare plant hunting and were held for nine months. In 2003 a Canadian National Geographic employee and two companions were detained by the right-wing paramilitary group AUC for a week. There have however been successful crossings of the area including by Range Rover and motorcycle.
The two countries were in fact once one. Panama was a province of Colombia until it achieved independence in 1903 with the help of strong support from the United States who wished to build a canal in the Western hemisphere.
Panamá y Colombia incrementarán cooperación para defender frontera común (Univision Noticias)
Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Tom Hart Dyke, orchid hunter (The Independent)
Adventure Writer Reportedly Kidnapped in Panama (National Geographic News)
The 1903 Treaty and Qualified Independence (United States Library of Congress)