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Panama Rejects U.S. Criticism on Drugs

April 5, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Panama has taken ″strong and adequate steps″ to curb drug traffickers operating there, a Panamanian official said Tuesday, contradicting a State Department report.

The statement by Embassy Minister Counselor Miguel A. Corro was made in reaction to a State Department report that said Panama’s government has shown a ″disappointing lack of will″ in confronting narcotics traffickers.

Corro said a U.S.-Panama evidence-sharing treaty agreed upon in 1991 has been approved by Panama but the U.S. Senate has failed to act on it.

He also said a new law in Panama, similar to a U.S. law, requires a cross- border declaration on the transport of $10,000 or more.

In Panama, Vice President Guillermo Ford said the U.S. criticism was ill- advised.

″Instead of continuing to criticize and cause a sensation by saying Panama is supporting drug traffic and money laundering, we should work together to eradicate these two tortures,″ he told The Associated Press.

The State Department report released Monday said the Panamanian government failed to take ″decisive new action″ last year in curbing the laundering of drug money.

″The law needs strengthening, the agencies with money-laundering-control responsibilities are ineffective and resources are inadequate,″ the report said.

Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard said Panama’s role as a ″major money-laundering center″ is a matter of ″extraordinary concern″ for the United States.