Today, the US Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Uzra Zeya will meet with Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo. The two will discuss regional migration challenges and the impact of transnational organized crime.
Political corruption, chronic violence, economic uncertainty and rising COVID-19 cases in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have led to extreme instability in Central America. More than 250,000 people have been internally displaced and 500,000 have fled to neighboring states, creating a refugee crisis in the region.
During this visit Zeya will travel to the Darién region in Panama to observe the humanitarian efforts of international organizations. The Darién gap, a jungle that separates Colombia and Panama, has seen over 91,000 US-bound migrants pass through in 2021. Here, migrant families are exposed to extortion, sexual abuse and trafficking by local gangs.
Today’s visit will likely result in financial assistance from the US to support border protection efforts in Panama. This comes as Panama’s Foreign Ministry held virtual meetings last month to request greater regional cooperation and operational assistance. Long-term, the Biden Administration will likely increase US involvement in Central America, adopting a more humanitarian approach in light of recent criticism regarding their treatment of Haitian asylum seekers.
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Riley is an Analyst and a regular contributor to the Daily Brief, he focuses on security issues in Europe and the Middle East/North Africa.