Panamanian public security minister Jose Raul Mulino confirmed on Monday that Colombian guerrilla group the FARC had a presence on their side of the border, and that Panamanian police say that in the past they had orders to avoid the guerrillas, reports EFE.
Panamanian security forces along the border “confirmed that, indeed, there were two occasions during the previous administration when they encountered FARC guerrillas while on patrol, but the Panamanian government did not authorize them to go after them,” Mulino said, following a visit to his country’s border region to meet with officials to discuss the presence of FARC-installed land mines in the area.
“Obviously they were invading our national territory to hide out, protect themselves, and move arms and drugs,” the minster said.
Mulino stressed that “this order [to stay away from the FARC] was given years ago,” but that there is no “concrete evidence” of it.
Mulino reiterated statements from current Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who said that the former governments had a “friendly deal” with drug traffickers and guerrillas, but that this has ended under his government.
“We have changed our policy … In January … there were clashes where three FARC members were killed” by Panamanian forces, Mulino pointed out.
Despite their best efforts to go after the FARC, the minister said that “even if they had all of the resources needed to do so,” the nature of his country’s border with Colombia, mountainous and full of jungles and forests, makes it very difficult to control.
On Sunday, a Panamanian newspaper reported that former Panamanian Presidents Mireya Moscoso (1999 – 2004) and Martin Torrijos (2004 – 2009) had an informal non-aggression pact with the FARC to avoid violence spilling over the border.
“I have total solidarity with President Mireya Moscoso and President Torrijos, and now with President Martinelli,” Uribe said on Monday.