On Wednesday, June 1, the Public Ministry of Panama (PM) reported that security forces had dismantled a drug trafficking cell linked to Los Urabeños in Darién province near the Colombian border. During the operation, security forces detained 64 people and recovered USD 400 million worth of cocaine and marijuana. Jairo Rivas, also known as El Patron and who is one of the 12 most wanted people in Panama, was also captured. The network was transporting drugs from Colombia along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Panama via sea routes in order to reach the United States.
The operation, code-named Asturias, began August 22, 2015, as a joint operation between the Military Police and National Police.
Los Urabeños is the largest paramilitary organization in Colombia and is heavily involved in drug trafficking. The organization is based out of the Uraba region in northwestern Colombia near the Panamanian border and operates internationally.
Panama's location, weak judicial system, and high levels of corruption have made it a major transit point for drug trafficking from South America through Central America. On May 2-3, a series of clashes broke out between members of a drug trafficking group and border security agents from SENAFRONT (Servicio Nacional de Fronteras) in Darién province, leaving at least four presumed narcotraffickers dead.
Due to the presence of drug traffickers and other organized crime groups, as well as a general absence of state security forces and infrastructure, some foreign governments advise their nationals against travel to Darién province, in particular zones along the Colombian border.