The Panamanian government said today that it is "prepared" to fight possible dissidents of the former FARC guerrillas on the border with Colombia and ruled out that the country could suffer attacks in the short term such as those recently occurred in Ecuador.
“It is a difficult border where there are very isolated places, but we have the resources at this time to face crisis situations, we are prepared for anything,” said Panamanian Public Security Minister, Alexis Bethancourt, on Friday.
The official explained that the Panamanian security forces maintain “daily” contact with their Colombian counterparts and that the National Border Service of Panama (Senafront) is “a very strong institution that has been strengthened even more in recent times.”
Bethancourt indicated that for security reasons he cannot confirm if there is currently a dissident group established in the Darién, the jungle that acts as a natural border between Panama and Colombia, but assured that Panamanian security forces discard “short term” events such as from Ecuador.
The Darién, where currently about 50,000 people live, mostly indigenous, is the only point on the continent where the Pan American Highway is interrupted, which runs from Alaska to Cape Horn, the southernmost point of Argentina.
The Panamanian Security Minister recalled that Panama has experience in the fight against organized crime and guerrilla warfare and offered to share it with its neighbors, since in his opinion; this type of violence can only be fought with “regional” cooperation.
“What is happening between the Ecuador-Colombia borders is regrettable, but (both countries) are going to bring tranquility to that border area,” the minister said after the opening of a regional meeting on maritime security in the Panamanian capital.
The area is at a moment of particular tension, after several attacks attributed to a dissident group of the FARC led by Walter Patricio Arizala, A.K.A. “Guacho”.
The authorities of Ecuador and Colombia also point to the same armed group, with ramifications with drug trafficking, as the author of the kidnapping and murder of three workers of the “El Comercio” newspaper and the kidnapping of two Ecuadorian civilians.
In the midst of this situation, Ecuador announced that it is no longer guarantor of the peace process between the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) until the guerrillas stop their “terrorist activities”.