U.S. Ambassador to Panama Barbara Stephenson and Panamanian Minister of the Presidency Rafael Mezquita today signed the first letter of agreement implementing the Merida Initiative, a multi-year regional effort to combat organized crime, gangs and the trafficking of narcotics and firearms. Today's signing provides an initial $2,011,000 in FY2008 funding for the first year of the Merida Initiative.
Under this agreement, the Panamanian Government will participate in the following four projects fully funded by the U.S. Government: Central American Fingerprint Exchange, $300,000; Central American Vetted and Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU), $1,000,000; Improved policing and police equipment, $613,000; and improved prison management, $100,000. A second letter of agreement to be signed in the future will cover projects including the targeting of at risk youth and anti-gang programs, community policing, and demand reduction.
Representatives of the Government of the United States and the Government of Panama will meet quarterly to review qualitative and quantitative progress towards achievement of the project goals and objectives. These evaluations are in addition to the ongoing monitoring of the programs and activities conducted by each government.