Panama has long been an attractive location to transnational criminal organizations capitalizing on its strategic geography between cocaine-producing South America and trafficking routes through Central America. Criminal groups have come to rely on the deep jungle terrain, the geographic chokepoint of the Americas, to smuggle migrants and drugs on their way to the United States. You can read more about the Darien Gap here.
Recently, a US Army communications team based in Panama conducted an assessment of remote areas in the Darien jungle at the Colombian border. As part of their assessment, the team evaluated how local populations receive information and concluded that radios were the simplest technology with the highest penetration into the deepest parts of the Darien jungle. Messages received via radio are crucial to inform local populations of current events, severe weather, and upcoming humanitarian efforts from which they may benefit, and have the potential to advance security interests as well.
The Army team has been working with Panamanian security forces to game-plan distribution and content creation for the potential use of radios to create local buy-in. Indigenous populations that are poor, vulnerable, and isolated are susceptible to recruitment by drug and human trafficking organizations. The US and Panama will join forces to create content that, in addition to being entertaining, reiterates security concerns for those participating in illegal activities, as well as clear instructions to inform Panamanian authorities about these activities. If the bad actors are the only ones communicating with them, the local populations often feel there is no other choice. These radios provide the alternative.
While their vision falls short for lack of technical equipment, with your assistance, US Army troops can make this a reality. 150 radios are needed to cover 30-40 small communities in their desired communication network. With 10-15 families in each village, the goal is to provide at least two radios to each village. Help Spirit of America assist our partners in Panama and bring this essential project to fruition.