Panama launches operation in Darien jungle targeting organised crime, migrant smugglers
NICANOR, Panama (AP) — Panama launched a security operation along its shared border with Colombia on Friday to combat criminal gangs and migrant smugglers involved in record-setting migration through the perilous Darien Gap this year.
Security officials said Operation Shield is part of the agreement reached with the governments of Colombia and the United States in April to stop the flow of migrants through the border's jungle-clad mountains.
Panama will use previously US-donated helicopters to increase aerial patrols of the largely roadless region but stressed that it was a Panamanian operation.
The government will also send more special border police units into the area to try to root out the criminal gangs.
“This is an action by the Panamanian government against criminals who are earning fortunes from human pain,” Panama Security Minister Juan Manuel Pino said.
Some 1,200 immigration agents, border police and members of the naval air service will participate.
Pino denied that the operation represented the militarisation of the Darien.
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