PANAMA CITY – President Juan Carlos Varela pointed on Monday to a decline in Panama’s murder rate since he took office 2½ years ago, while acknowledging that his government needs to do more in the area of public safety.
“Our public safety plan is yielding good results,” Varela said in the annual state of the nation address to the National Assembly. “In 30 months of this administration we have reduced the homicide rate by 47 percent, from 17 per 100,000 inhabitants to nine per 100,000.”
The government’s crime policies have also led to the seizure of more than 3,700 firearms and the arrest of upward of 1,100 gang members, the president said.
“We have also dismantled 14 human-trafficking rings ... and have seized record amounts of drugs for two consecutive years,” Varela said.
Panamanian authorities confiscated 62.3 tons of illegal drugs in 2016, most of it cocaine, according to Public Safety Minister Alexis Bethancourt.
“Despite this progress in public safety, it has been another difficult year and I recognize that there is a lot yet to do,” the president said. “I have instructed law enforcement agencies to increase their presence, and to intervene with strength in those areas were criminal groups operate and defy authorities.”
Varela said that his administration will “carefully review regulations for carrying guns,” and will adopt “measures to punish violent crime with more severity.”
Media outlets frequently report on the population’s growing sense of insecurity in the country.
In recent months, a number of public officials, including police officers, have been detained and prosecuted for alleged connections with drug trafficking.