By Julieta Pelcastre July 19, 2019 The Panamanian National Border Service (SENAFRONT, in Spanish) and the Armed Forces of Colombia updated and evaluated their security operations in the fight against organized crime. The XV Panama-Colombia Regional Border Commanders Meeting took place April 23-26, 2019, in Panama City.“This cooperation strengthens our capabilities to counter organized crime with a common approach, a unified doctrine, and directly focused resourcing,” Commissioner Eric Eduardo Estrada Delgado, SENAFRONT general director, told Diálogo. “It allows for timely, effective coordination from both countries’ armed and police forces.”The operational outcome indicated that criminal structures of the Clan del Golfo, the National Liberation Army, and dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were weakened. Authorities blocked the criminal mobility routes of Colombia’s largest gangs and reduced their influence in indigenous sectors.“Although transnational threats work together, we hit their armed, logistics, and command and control components,” said Comm. Estrada. “Our actions forced these criminal structures to reformulate all their criminal activities.”The results reinforced military and intelligence information exchange mechanisms. Authorities succeeded in securing the border area, all with help from U.S. Southern Command, allowing for more focused, dynamic, and provisional efforts from Panama and Colombia, the Colombian Military Forces General Command told the press. “From January to May 2019, authorities captured 100 people connected to drug and human trafficking; 10 of the detainees were leaders of the Clan del Golfo,” Comm. Estrada added.Agreements reachedParticipants agreed to increase special operations and the presence of land and naval security forces. They will also increase interdiction operations for crimes related to illegal immigration and human trafficking, which criminal gangs control.“Cooperation is successful because plans and agreements reached in every meeting are enforced and have continuity,” Comm. Estrada said. “Work is reinforced with studies to understand changes in crime, in the same way as social dynamics, which allows for anticipated action plans to confront threats.”Major instrument The hard-to-reach Darien jungle, an ideal illegal migration route and narcotrafficking area, is the main challenge for military and security forces. To improve operations, authorities rely on the Intelligence Fusion Center, which gathers Colombian Army members and SENAFRONT experts.Panama has the Punusa Intermediate Operational Base to deploy operations within the jungle and to immediately counter any warning detected, while Colombia has three military bases in strategic locations. “Everybody’s experience is the main instrument to win the war against organized crime,” Comm. Estrada said.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Driving onto the campus of Stony Brook University recently to attend a global trade conference, I passed the new research center under construction in the college’s technology park. I could see that the building’s foundation was done. Steel beams framed the half-built structure as workers jackhammered away.At the conference itself, government employees, trade lawyers and consultants talked up the benefits of exporting. The small-business owners in the audience took business cards and brochures, sipped cups of coffee from the urn, and contemplated how they might do a little exporting one of these days.Leaving the conference, I passed the construction site where steel girders glinted in the noon light. Those beams, if imported, now faced the 25 percent tariff ordered by President Trump in retaliation for what, in language evoking military threat, he called “an assault on our country.” In recent remarks Trump has described America as a nation “ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices” and positioned himself as protecting workers who had been “betrayed.”The bellicose talk visibly spooked some of his most conservative supporters, who, for whatever their positions on domestic issues, had consistently opposed protectionism throughout their careers, and reflexively defended keeping markets – foreign and domestic – open.To provide visuals for a televised tariff-increase signing, the White House collected a bevy of hulking steelworkers with whom POTUS could shake hands and beam with their presumed post-signing appreciation. The steelworkers – and surely the owners of the companies they work for – indeed looked pleased that the president of the United States was raising the prices customers would have to pay to assure their livelihood.News analysts, reporters, and policy commentators, whose own jobs are decidedly far less secure, immediately raised questions about the prospects of a trade war. Trump, never one to shy away from an argument, asserted the war was “winnable.” He looked like the kid in the schoolyard readying for a fight as friends stood behind him holding rocks.Politicians who call for using tariffs as trade-war ammunition remind me of the old Woody Allen bit where he describes a fight where he hurt the other’s guy fist with his nose. This is what Trump is doing to us. By raising the price of imported steel by 25 percent, Trump effectively punches the public in our collective noses. We lose our freedom to choose cheaper or better-quality imports. As for the price differential, Washington pockets the change.While prior presidents have indeed applied economic sanctions, they’ve been aimed at countries with whom relations have been chilly. At my trade conference, Jim Black, a partner with the SilvermanAcampora law firm in Jericho, recalled earlier years when a mention of the “Nasty Nine” nations referred to hostile states like Russia, Iran and Cuba.“That number is way down now,” Black said shortly before lunch. One reason adversaries become friends is that trade brings nations together; sanctions drive them apart. Another speaker, trade expert Bill Laraque, dismissed the America First rhetoric.“Trade sanctions aren’t going to make America great,” he said. “They are going to make America mediocre.”Merely raising the cost of imports, he said, was no answer.“What about improving the infrastructure? Charging ourselves more for steel is missing the point.”As his swerve towards protectionism took shape last month, the president replaced his chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, with TV talking head Larry Kudlow. The ousted Cohn is a free-market advocate. Kudlow, of course, is the well-dressed talking head who plays an economist on TV. He is an unrepentant supply-sider but by no means is he a trade hawk. It seems the president didn’t get that memo.On March 6, one week before getting Cohn’s old job, Kudlow blogged on kudlow.com under the headline “Tariffs are Taxes,” tariffs and import quotas are what we do to ourselves in times of peace and what foreign nations do to us with blockades… in times of war. But now we are imposing sanctions on our own country by punishing with tariffs in order to make Americans more prosperous.”In other words, we’re punching their noses with our faces.“If ever there were a crisis of logic,” declared Kudlow, “this is it.”Warren Strugatch is a partner with Inflection Point Associates, a consulting firm in Stony Brook. Contact him at [email protected]