At least four Mexican drug trafficking organizations are operating in Panama and have been linked to murders, the La Prensa newspaper reported Monday, citing intelligence reports.
Bureau of Prisons and intelligence reports "confirm the presence ... of the Los Zetas, Beltran Leyva, Sinaloa and Juarez" cartels, which "use Panama as a base of operations for transporting cocaine into Mexico and the United States," the newspaper said.
"(Of) the nearly 2,500 foreigners currently detained in Panama, between 90 and 100 are Mexicans, all in drug cases and linked to narcocartels," La Prensa said.
Panamanian authorities have struck some blows at Mexican cartels in recent years, such as the 2007 seizure of 19.5 tons of cocaine from a Sinaloa cartel network dismantled with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration assistance, the newspaper said.
Four members of the violent Los Zetas cartel were arrested when they tried to enter Panama from Costa Rica with a shipment of cocaine packed into three vehicles in 2009, while four suspected Juarez cartel members were detained in 2010 when they attempted to smuggle drugs in suitcases with false bottoms, La Prensa said.
Prosecutors are investigating murders with "an elevated degree of violence that appear to have been committed by Colombian or Mexican hitmen, or by Panamanian killers who copy the methods of these individuals," the newspaper said.
"About 20 Mexicans linked to drug cases were murdered in Panama between 2009 and 2012," La Prensa said, citing a National Police homicide investigation unit report. EFE