Panama's seizure of a North Korean-flagged ship with an undeclared cargo of weapons belonging to Cuba on Wednesday sparked mixed reactions in the Central American nation.
Panamanian authorities are holding the Chong Chon Gang, on board which on Monday they found hidden in containers weaponry that Havana described as aging equipment on its way to North Korea for refurbishment.
Panama's security minister, Jose Raul Mulino, characterized as "not very transparent" Cuba's actions in asking the Panamanian government on Saturday, before the weapons had been found, to release the cargo ship without revealing that it was carrying military equipment.
Political scientist Nils Castro said Cuba was wrong to send a "shipment of this kind" without declaring it, although the shipment contains obsolete equipment in poor condition.
"The first irregularity is that the nature of the shipment was not declared, something that was even more necessary because this is a ship with the flag of North Korea, which is a country sanctioned by the United Nations," Castro told Efe.
But he also criticized Mulino and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli for their "frivolous and histrionic" handling of the issue.
"They (Martinelli and Mulino) are the ones who say that possibly this is about sophisticated missile launchers and are exaggerating the matter," Castro said.
Meanwhile, attorney and law professor Julio Berrios told Efe that neither Cuba nor North Korea had violated any aspect of public international law.
The concept in international law known as reserved domain allows states to keep secret the contents of any shipments having to do with a country's national defense, Berrios said.
Mulino said on Wednesday that Panama is maintaining its position that U.N., U.S., and British experts will be the ones who will "evaluate the enormous quantity of armaments" found on board the Chong Chon Gang.
After the weapons were found, the Cuban government admitted that the vessel was transporting 240 metric tons of "obsolete" defensive weaponry, including two anti-aircraft batteries, nine disassembled rockets and their parts, two Mig-21 Bis aircraft and 15 aircraft engines to be repaired and returned to the island. EFE