Panama is proud of its history as a strong ally and committed partner of the United States in its fight against terrorism and terrorist financing. We were surprised and, frankly, offended by the accusations former Florida governor Jeb Bush made in his Jan. 17 Tuesday Opinion essay, “How to stop Panama from helping Iran skirt sanctions.” Panama cooperates with the Treasury Department and other U.S. authorities to ensure vessels listed in our registry are not used in activities that threaten international peace and security.
As the operator of one of the world’s largest merchant fleets, Panama takes its responsibility for global maritime security seriously. Between 2019 and 2022, Panama, following due process, de-flagged 678 vessels for noncompliance with Panamanian and international regulations. We are committed to compliance with sanctions enforcement and to date have de-flagged 136 ships with ties to the National Iranian Oil Co. In fact, each of the five vessels mentioned in Mr. Bush’s essay is in the process of being de-flagged or is under investigation.
In 2019, Panama passed a resolution to allow for the immediate de-flagging of any vessel in the registry that attempts to obscure its origins or destination. The then-U. S. secretary of state applauded this measure, with the State Department calling it an “important step in helping prevent terrorist groups or states that sponsor terrorism from threatening global stability and commerce.”
Panama carries out investigations of alleged violations in strict compliance with international law. We conduct regular reviews to ensure that vessels listed on our registry operate in line with International Maritime Organization conventions.
Ramón Martínez de la Guardia, Washington
The writer is the ambassador of Panama to the United States.