One morning in Panama, I heard on the news that there had been a small number of South Africans detained sneaking through the Darien jungle heading north. Having worked in Iraq for a number of years with South Africans of numerous ethnicities, I was curious for a look. I stepped back into the room to see on the TV what was being reported as several “South Africans” with SA passports and a large number of crisp $100 USD bills on the way out to be deported.

As soon as I saw them standing in Tocumen International Airport, ready to be escorted to SA, I knew they were Havashas, an ethnic group that lives around the horn of Africa—primarily Somali, Eritrean, and Ethiopian. I immediately contacted the U.S. embassy and an old friend there, notifying him that A.) They were NOT South African, B.) The bills were most likely counterfeits from Venezuela (I will explain this in a minute, starting with an experience I had back in 2005), and C.) They probably had ties to al-Shabaab. Three days later I received a phone call from my trusty friend. “Dude, how did you know?”

That was an eye-opener to what had become a serious problem: officials selling visas for transit purposes to presumably East African farmers, but who were, in actuality, linked to Hezbollah and al-Shabaab, both known for their role in the drug trade and narco-terror. [1]

Back in 2005, I had been given photos to hand over to the U.S. embassy. They showed an individual from the then Ministry of Labor in Panama receiving a large payoff (envelope) from a Suntracs senior official. Suntracs is a labor union suspected of being funded in part by the former Chavez regime, and is rumored by many within the “barrios” (where the majority membership resides) to be behind counterfeit money influxes. Chavez had even been found to be supplying the FARC with weapons—possibly even missiles. (Colombian authorities discovered evidence of this on Raul Reyes’s laptop and several others after he was killed in 2008. The information showed hundreds of millions of dollars of weaponry transferred into FARC hands by Chavez.) [7] This demonstrates a correlation in regards to some Islamist group activities and drug smuggling and socialist subversion.

By 2006, 70 out of 96 East African detainees apprehended transiting Latin America to gain entry into the United States at the southern border crossings were of Somali descent. According to WikiLeaks,

Smugglers employ the same methods used in transporting narcotics from Colombia, moving people into Panama in small boats which hug the isolated shorelines of Darien province. Throughout the year, small groups of migrants, ranging in size from 11 to 28, have been abandoned on Panama’s coastlines by smugglers. In one instance a group was deposited on the beach and told that they were in Canada. The migrants pay somewhere between $3,000 and $10,000 to be smuggled to Latin America and onward to the United States.”

Just a few years ago, while driving to Colon using the new corredor (freeway) from Panama City to the free zone in Colon, I saw a van with 10 illegals pulled over and detained by local police and immigration officers. I later confirmed through a contact within the national police that they were all East African.

According to a WikiLeaks-reported comment from the former U.S. ambassador to Panama, “African migration to Latin America is a complex phenomenon that is in a state of flux. Many migrants appear willing to settle in Brazil, Argentina, or other countries willing to accommodate them. However, the surge of Somali immigrants as far north as Panama and Costa Rica may signal both a new source and a new route for attempted illegal entry into the U.S. In the context of the emerging global economy, as Panama transitions from developing to developed nation and seeks to improve its democratic governance it will likely face further challenges from African migration.”