PUBLIC SAFETY

Radars not being used for drug operations

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Panama is depending on aircraft to detect boats used by drug smugglers along its coast, and authorities are not using the radar system purchased by the last government.

The radar system was provided by the Italian defense consortium Finmeccanica as part of a $250 million contract, and the deal has come under heavy scrutiny due to allegations it included bribes to government officials. It has also been criticized because the radar system did not work as promised.

Instead, Joe Laniado, commissioner of the aeronaval service Senan, said the agency has been relying on aircraft to spot the boats and then has dispatched vessels to intercept them. This has resulted in the seizure of 128 tons of drugs since July 2014. 

Laniado explained that the aircraft has been able to spot the small speedboats used by smugglers to bring the drugs into Panama. These boats couldn't be detected by the radars.

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