Nine tons of drugs go up in smoke in Panama

PANAMA CITY - Panama's police on Friday (April 1) destroyed nearly nine tons of drugs, mostly cocaine, seized from smugglers so far this year, officials said.

The 6.3 tons of cocaine, 2.5 tons of marijuana and 3.8 kilograms (eight pounds) of heroin were incinerated on the outskirts of Panama City under tight security, sending a column of thick black smoke into the sky.

A police official, Manuel Bonome, told reporters that the destruction showed the ability of the country's law enforcement to counter organized crime and drug smuggling.

Central America has become a major staging ground for stockpiling drugs on their way from South America to the principal markets of the United States and Europe, according to the United Nations.

Panama last year seized a record 58 tons of drugs. Authorities estimate they have confiscated 462 tons since the beginning of this century.