U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Kozak will arrive in Panama this Thursday for a five-day visit with an agenda covering regional security issues, the situation in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and investment promotion in the Central American country.

The U.S. Embassy reported Wednesday that this is Kozak’s first trip as interim undersecretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and includes separate meetings next Friday with Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo, Foreign Minister Alejandro Ferrer, and Security Minister Rolando Mirones.

These meetings will discuss “the democratic crises in Venezuela and Nicaragua, the importance of Panama’s continued cooperation in actions against drug trafficking and terrorism, and border security,” the U.S. Embassy said in a letter published on Wednesday.

Interim Undersecretary Kozak will also express “U.S. support for Panama’s efforts to improve the business climate and attract more transparent and sustainable foreign investment.

Next Friday Kozak will also participate in the inauguration of the liquefied natural gas terminal of the U.S. multinational AES in the city of Colon, “the largest U.S. investment to date in Panama”.

According to the official agenda, Kozak will visit the Panama Canal next Saturday and will meet with the Deputy Administrator of the Panama Canal, Manuel Benítez, and the Minister of the Canal, Arístides Royo.

The senior U.S. official will talk with both of them about the progress made in the administration and infrastructure of the Canal, and the U.S. interest in promoting other projects related to the interoceanic waterway, said the diplomatic legation.

The Canal, built by the United States at the beginning of the last century and transferred to Panama on December 31, 1999, connects more than 140 maritime routes and 1,700 ports in 160 different countries.

The route put into service in June 2016 its first expansion, with a cost of at least 5,600 million dollars, which consists of a new lane to give way to the neopanamax, ships with up to three times the cargo capacity (up to 14,000 containers) of those that pass through the locks operating since 1914.

Kozak’s October 17-21 visit to Panama is “to reaffirm the solid bilateral relations between the U.S. and Panama and to promote collaboration in the area of infrastructure and the expansion of investments that favor the market,” the U.S. Embassy said.

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