U.S. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was in Panama City on Thursday, Aug. 22, to meet with security officials and ministers from Central America and Colombia.

He tweeted his arrival for the Ninth Northern Triangle Ministerial and his readiness to engage with his colleagues for solutions facing the region.

The aim of the monthly meeting was to discuss the deterrence of drug trafficking and migrant smuggling in the region.

“This meeting of security and immigration ministers has become one of the most important engagements we have on security collaboration in the region,” said McAleenan.

He commended the vision of Interior Minister of Guatemala Enrique Degenhart and Interior Minister of Honduras Julian Pacheco for developing a platform for these meetings. “It has become again a place where we talk about concrete solutions,” said McAleenan.


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During his address, McAleenan said migration and drug trafficking are regional challenges. “The organizations and the criminal activity we’re trying to confront crosses borders.”

“It doesn´t respect our national sovereignty and the only way to address that effectively is by working together, not just for information sharing,” as El Salvador’s Minister of Security Rogelio Rivas pointed out, “but for concrete operational actions, investigations, and interdictions,” said McAleenan.

“We have to put a stop” to illegal human trafficking, Panama’s Minister of Security Rolando Mirones said in Spanish to reporters.

Mirones emphatically affirmed that his country does not want these migrants to arrive in Panama.

“Allowing these people to come through here is sponsoring people who are criminals” and “not because we do not want to fight this humanitarian crisis,” said Panama’s minister of security.

McAleenan tweeted about touring the Panama Canal, the growing strategic importance of the Canal to U.S. national security and economy, and the need for “continued partnership to strengthen the security of the Panama Canal.”

Due to its geographical location, Panama serves as a conduit for many illegal migrants from Haiti, Africa, and Asia coming to South America to find a way to reach the U.S. border. The tiny country is also the gateway for cocaine and other drugs coming from South America.

During the meeting, McAleenan and ministerial officials from Central America and Colombia discussed how to deal with the flow of illegal migrants.

The talks prompted Panama to reconsider its existing policy of sheltering migrants arriving from South America via a narrow jungle land bridge and then letting them travel north.

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