Illegal drug traffic in Panama is something that bothers me, as it does any hardworking Panamanian, and foreigners who are trying to live decently and follow the laws. We have had many foreigners coming into Panama using the “Friendship VISA”, which was approved by a previous president. The government granted these “Friendship VISAS” to citizens from Colombia and many other countries.
Yes, Panama does have a lot of problems internally with drug cartels, and Panama used to not have a military, but because of all these illegal drug traffic problems with Colombia, Panama had to create a specific military force called the “aeronaval”, which in English means “monitoring both air and water.”
The Aeronaval is stationed in little islands very close to the border between Panama and Colombia, and they are the ones who have helped the drug problem from Colombia decrease. Some Colombians have been illegally entering Panama, so the Aeronaval has been controlling the border very strictly, and thanks to that, the illegal drug traffic problem has decreased a lot. The drug traffic is still there, that’s no lie, but it’s being controlled.
I do not think that the illegal drug traffic problem in Panama is something that a foreigner can really perceive, especially here in Boquete. Here in Boquete, you do not see any illegal drug trafficking. It’s much more of a problem if you’re in the capital city, and if you go to “Red Areas”, where you see that illegal immigrants in Panama are and where they even try to build a home.
There is a place in Panama between David (the third largest city in Panama, and the closest large city to Boquete) and Boquete called Caldera, which is a small town, and in that specific intersection, there are always going to be police cars and police motorcycles, and the military- they’re always checking the flow of cars coming and going just to make sure that Boquete will always stay safe, because that’s our tourism spot. We need Boquete protected no matter what, so from Caldera to anywhere in Panama, burglary and things like that are being addressed, even though it still exists. All in all, everything is so peaceful in Boquete.
The Red Zone is what we call “Zona Roja,” which are known as areas within Panama City, just like any large city, that are the worst areas in terms of crime. Many Colombian citizens, due to the very high rates of drug cartels and murders in Colombia and other problems that they are having in their country, enter Panama using the so-called “Friendship VISA”, and they go to these “Red Zones” because it’s cheaper to live there, and that’s where they start building homes illegally. Even though they are not the source of the problem, they become a source of the problem if they’re not regulated.
(Aeronaval, Panama, pictured.)