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PANAMA CITY, February 29 (Itar-Tass) — On Tuesday Viktor Ivanov, Director of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS), and Jose Ayu Prado, Panama's Attorney General, signed an agreement on cooperation between the two agencies in fighting the trafficking of narcotics, psychotropic substances and precursors.
Ivanov told Itar-Tass in an interview that the document can be referred to as a "juridical sealing of the long-held practice of cooperation between the two countries in combating drug trafficking."
Within the framework of such interaction the agencies are planning "to exchange operational and sensitive information on criminal organizations that deal in drugs and on drug trafficking channels". The FDCS chief said "this is very important for us in view of the fact that Panama, although a small state, directily adjoins to the major producer of cocaine -- Colombia -- and is the first to feel the pressure of cocaine production on a huge scale". This is evidenced, in particular, by the amount of the narcotic, which is intercepted in Panama every year -- about 50 tonnes," Ivanov said. He pointed out that such a situation "makes it possible to see information from the inside very thoroughly", due to which it can be studied, and joint operations can be organized.
The FDCS chief pointed out that the trafficking in narcotics in the Western hemisphere affects, of course the functioning of the Panama Canal. "About 15,000 ships and approximately 300 million tonnes of cargo, in which narcotics and other contraband merchandize are often hidden, transit through the Panama Canal every year," Ivanov said.
"In this respect, the effect of bottleneck develops. This is sort of a drug dropping bottle through which a flow of narcotics travels from South America to other countries," the FDCS chief said. Narcotics are carried here both overland and shipped by sea in adjacent areas. Therefore information from coast guard and police services, which are coordinated by the Office of Attorney General, "will be very useful to us", Ivanov pointed out.
Panama has become the fina leg of the Russian delegation's tour of Latin America, during which Viktor Ivanov already visited Mexico, El Salvador, Nucaragua, and Cuba.