The Undersecretary General of the Office of the Attorney General of Panama, Azael Samaniego, together with the National Director of the National Directorate of Judicial Investigation, Carlos Valencia, appeared at a press conference in Panama yesterday, May 9, 2022 to discuss the mysterious disappearance of people across Panama.
According to the Undersecretary General, the Public Ministry reported that, in the last 12 months, a total of 444 reports were received of missing persons, the highest incidence of which was in the province of Chiriqui, Panama.
While one man was charged in connection with the disappearance of three people in the province of Chiriqui, Panamanian authorities said that most of the other disappearances were believed to be related to family problems, couples’ issues and mental issues, theories which were rejected yesterday by Heleni Manolas, a university student in Panama, who appeared on Panama television to discuss the concerns.
According to Manolas, Panama has a “crisis” of gender-based violence and based on her research, the crisis is getting worse.
Manolas said further that, while there may be laws in Panama to address gender-based violence, some women do not report incidents of gender-based violence out of fear that no one will believe them or take them seriously or worse, the law will not be enforced in respect of assailants.
Manolas exclaimed that had the missing persons been the “daughter, wife or mother” of the Undersecretary General, authorities in Panama would be desperately trying to discover what happened to their family members.
A resident of Panama also spoke to Loop News on Sunday, May 8, 2022 and offered another explanation for the disappearances. He said that “there is an organized group kidnapping women in Panama” and “it is not clear if they are being sold or [captured] for the purpose of removing their organs.”
Carlos Valencia of the National Directorate of Judicial Investigation, however, appeared to brush off some of these ideas in a press conference, saying that “they have not collected enough information to determine that it is an organized criminal group.”
With fears escalating among women in Panama, several organizations are expected to hold a protest today, Tuesday, May 10, in front of the premises of the Attorney General’s Office, to demand a formal statement from the authorities regarding the reports of missing women in the country and what the authorities plan to do to make people safe again.