Panama City, January 17, 2020. Today, U.S. leaders from Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) and the U.S. Coast Guard concluded a multi-day visit with Panamanian officials and the Panama Canal Authority. The visit explored opportunities to strengthen and enrich important partnerships between the United States and Panama that enhance regional security efforts, particularly counternarcotics and search and rescue efforts in the region.
Leading U.S. officials participating in the visit included Rear Admiral Peter Gautier (Coast Guard District 11 Commander), Rear Admiral Pat DeQuattro (JIATF-S Director), and Rear Admiral Eric Jones (Coast Guard District 7 Commander).
Panama is the first line of defense for cocaine and other illicit drugs entering Central America. The three admirals congratulated Panama’s security forces for seizing a record amount of illicit narcotics in 2019.
“Panama provides critical support to our multinational team, including aviation, maritime assets, and information,” said Rear Admiral Pat DeQuattro. “In addition, a Panamanian liaison officer is embedded within JIATF-S headquarters. This dramatically increases our collective ability to respond more quickly and efficiently during multinational counterdrug operations.”
Other key themes discussed throughout the visit were Panama’s support for U.S. Coast Guard transits through the Panama Canal, port services, and aircraft logistics, which are essential to maritime security operations throughout the region. Participants also discussed Panama’s vital role in search and rescue efforts, and explored innovative ways to enhance capabilities.
The Minister of Security reported another record year for narcotics seizures in 2019, with nearly 87 metric tons captured by Panamanian security forces.