PANAMA CITY, June 14 (EFE) – The head of the United States Southern Command, General Laura J. Richardson, a two-day visit to Panama on Tuesday focused on issues such as security and the regional migration crisis.
Bad weather that prevailed in Panama on Tuesday prevented the commander of the Southern Command from visiting Darien Province, the jungle border between Panama and Colombia through which tens of thousands of illegal immigrants arrive in the country from all over the world who travel. to the United States.
The US Embassy stated without further details that “the Southern Command commander was unable to visit Darien due to the weather. Instead, I had a meeting with the Minister of Security (Juan Pino) to discuss border security and irregular immigration.” .
In Darien, as well as on the Panamanian border with Costa Rica, there are so-called migrant reception stations (ERMs), where the Panamanian authorities take biometric data and provide food and health care to transit migrants.
This unique humanitarian operation on the continent, as defended by the government of Panama amid criticism from humanitarian organizations who accuse human rights violations, made it possible to estimate more than 133,000 migrants who crossed the border jungle in 2021, a number that exceeds the cumulative number. of the entire previous decade.
The upward trend continues in the midst of this crisis in 2022: between January and May, 32,797 irregular migrants entered Darien, more than double the number of 15,949 in the same period the previous year.
Although more than 70% of mobile migrants who arrived in Panama in 2021 were Haitians, in 2022 they are Venezuelans, with 16,720 of that nationality out of the total who crossed between January and last May, according to official data.
Richardson’s visit to Panama came a few days after twenty countries signed a declaration containing concrete commitments to contain the migration crisis in the region at the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles.
The United States promised to increase its share of refugees from the Americas to 2023 and 2024, giving special priority to those from Haiti, while the rest of the countries promised to facilitate legal channels to receive immigrants.
The summit declaration was not signed by Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and immigrant-sending countries that were not invited to the summit, nor by Bolivia or many Caribbean nations.
On Monday, Richardson met with Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo, “to discuss joint efforts to enhance regional security,” the US embassy said, noting that the two countries maintain a “close partnership in security that includes counter-narcotics support, disaster relief, and training.”
Official information highlighted that “historic cooperation with Panama on security issues includes emergency preparedness programs, medical assistance for vulnerable communities, and cooperation in border and maritime security.”
The embassy said Richardson concluded her visit to Panama by participating in a “Women in Peace and Security Round Table”. EFE
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