One of the biggest stories emerging from the Americas in 2009 was Colombia’s decision to let the United States access military installations throughout Colombia in efforts to combat narcotrafficking. The move exacerbated already tenuous relations between Colombia and Venezuela, with the latter claiming that US presence in Colombia was a direct threat to sovereignty, another sensitive regional issue.

Central to the debate between Colombia and Venezuela is the controversial war on drugs, an issue whose prominence is not likely to die down in 2010.

Reports in English-language media about Mexican cartels in Atlanta, kidnappings in Phoenix, Los Zetas’ ventures in the formal economy on both sides of the US-Mexico border, and the revenge killings of the family of Melquisidet Angulo, the Mexican marine killed in a sting operation that led to the death of Arturo Beltran-Leyva, underscore the chilling fact that victims of drug-related violence extend far beyond those directly involved in the production, transportation, and sale of illegal narcotics.

As more bizarre stories emerge, the more we learn about the complexity of the drug war.

Earlier this month, LatAmThought wrote on a less-reported story related to the drug war – the establishment of the first of 11 anti-narcotics bases, to be used strictly by Panamanian authorities but open to US-led intelligence efforts, along both coasts of the isthmus. The bases are a direct attempt to thwart attempts by traffickers who use Panama’s coasts as a key node in the south-north supply chain. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has recognized Panama as a major transit country for illicit narcotics.

The article can be read here in its entirety at the Americas Quarterly Blog. Based on reader requests, we have added a list of where the bases will be located. The first base, located at Isla Chapera in the Perlas Archipelago in the Pacific, is already functioning. The other bases will be located at the following locations:

Pacific Side

  • Bahia Piña
  • Mensabe
  • Isla Coco
  • Isla de Coiba
  • Quebrada de Piedra

Atlantic Side

  • Rambala
  • Isla Colon
  • Puerto Obaldia
  • Sherman
  • El Porvenir