Varela visits U.S. By Dialogo December 03, 2010 As a reader of the aspects of security I find this Alliance a positive one as it offers travelers more confidence in the use of this form of transport and more in the case of the Airline Copa. Panamá and the United States signed an agreement Nov. 29 to work closely together in securing the international aviation system against terrorism and organized crime. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed during a visit to Panamá by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “The security of the international aviation system relies on close cooperation and global information sharing,” Napolitano said. “This MOU underscores the shared commitment of the United States and Panamá to enhance our mutual security and secure air travel through enhanced information sharing and cooperation.” Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela met with Napolitano during her visit and took part in the signing ceremony. Napolitano also met with representatives from several other Central American nations to discuss the United States’ continued collaboration with the region’s governments to bolster aviation security and combat multinational threats. Juan Carlos Varela, who in addition to his duties as vice president also serves as Panamá’s foreign minister, said in a statement that the agreement would improve security in airports and at the borders of both countries. “This allows us, as a country, to prevent our airports and airlines from being used for organized crimes,” Varela said at the end of the ceremony. “All of the information agencies from both governments will put information into a database, not just about drug trafficking, but also about human trafficking, terrorism and all kinds of crimes.” Varela said the agreement would allow for greater access to information about organized crimes. The agreement also is timely, as Panamá’s Tocumen airport is undergoing an expansion that will increase capacity by more than 50 percent by mid 2011. There also is a new airport in the works for the city of Colon and the David airport is being expanded. While other specifics of the security agreement between the two nations were not made public, the Department of Homeland Security has bolstered security at airports throughout the United States by deploying law enforcement personnel, behavior detection officers, air marshals, and explosives detection canine teams. The department also is expediting the deployment of new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units to help detect metallic and non-metallic explosives and implementing enhanced security measures for all air carriers with international flights to the United States. The AIT units are the so-called “body scanners” that recently met with controversy in the American media when some travel groups threatened to boycott the machines during the busy U.S. Thanksgiving holiday travel season. The protests, however, never materialized and numerous polls have shown a large majority of Americans support use of the scanners and other security measures. Panamá’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website that the agreement underscores the “efforts of the governments of presidents Ricardo Martinelli and Barack Obama to fight drug trafficking and organized crime in all its forms and manifestations.” It goes on to say that specific steps to implement the initiative will be developed through an additional “Operational Protocol.” In addition to President Martinelli, Vice President Varela and Secretary Napolitano, the signing ceremony was attended by Minister of the Presidency Demetrio Papadimitriu; Security Minister José Raúl Mulino; Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima; Ambassador of Panamá in the United States, Jaime Alemán; the U.S. Ambassador in Panama, Phyllis Powers; the Director of the National Police Gustavo Pérez; and Director of Civil Aviation Rafael Barcenas. Vice President Varela traveled to Washington DC shortly after the signing ceremony. During an official visit to the U.S. Capital, Varela is scheduled to meet with senior administration officials and members of Congress in order to address issues of common concern, including free trade, tax information exchanges and regional security issues, according to a spokesman with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Varela also took part in a ceremony Nov. 30 where Panamá’s Copa Airlines signed a sales agreement with Boeing for 22 new 737-800 airliners. The company had recently announced the lease of 10 of the aircraft to COPA, with five to be delivered in 2011 and five in 2012. “We thank Copa Airlines for this significant order and are very proud to partner with one of the most successful airlines in the industry,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Copa’s exceptional business model, ideal geographic position and modern and efficient fleet will continue to drive its leadership in the Latin American aviation market.” Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa also attended the ceremony in Washington. “These 22 firm aircraft plus 10 options, which deliver between 2015 and 2018, are an integral part of our medium term growth plan,” he said. “This is the largest aircraft order in Copa’s history, which is a reflection not only of our confidence in the future of Latin America and Panamá, but also of our successful business model, which has made our Hub of the America’s the best connecting point for intra-Latin America travel.” The 22 airplanes are valued at approximately $1.7 billion at list prices and nearly double Copa’s existing Next-Generation 737 fleet. The order is the largest new aircraft order in Copa Airlines’ history and is part of the airlines’ plan to continue to grow its fleet to meet market demands for new-generation, more fuel-efficient airplanes, the company said in a news release. The new airplanes will benefit from performance improvements expected to result in a 2 percent reduction in fuel consumption through a combination of airframe and engine improvements. Operating out of the “Hub of the Americas” in Panamá City, Copa provides service to 46 destinations in 24 countries. In the past two years, Copa has purchased 37 next generation 737-800s new from Boeing and entered into leasing agreements for an additional 10.