METETI, Panama – Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela and his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, met on Tuesday at a Panamanian air-naval base on the border between the two countries to discuss the war on drugs and how the migratory crisis is affecting the region.
Varela received Santos at around 11:00 p.m. at Meteti in the wooded province of Darien to review matters on their bilateral agenda, though it remained uncertain whether they would bring up the customs controversy that has been ongoing since 2012, since they are not accompanied by their trade ministers.
The Panamanian president is accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Miguel Hincapie and Security Minister Alexis Bethancourt, as well as by migration officials and the heads of various security agencies.
The meeting was scheduled last September during the UN General Assembly, and before Colombians voted down a referendum on the peace accord with the FARC promoted by Santos.
The peace process had aroused a certain concern in Panama and other nearby countries like Ecuador because of the refusal of some guerrilla groups to lay down their arms and the possible increase in criminal activities on Colombia’s borders.
Panamanian authorities have reported a number of times that drug production in the region has doubled in recent years.
Panama seized in 2015 a total of 58.1 tons of drugs, mostly cocaine, a record amount for the last 10 years, while between January and June this year more than 30 tons were seized, according to official figures.
Varela and Santos will also speak this Tuesday about the migratory crisis that has affected the region over the past year and that has caused thousands of migrants, Cubans and Haitians for the most part, to be left stranded in Central America on their way to the United States.
After the meeting, which will presumably last several hours, the two presidents will offer a joint press conference.