Defense Leaders from the Americas Meet in El Salvador
Representatives of the Armed Forces and security forces from more than 13 countries in Central America, South America, the Caribbean and the United States met in San Salvador, El Salvador, from April 18 to 19, for the 2012 Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC).
During the two-day event, co-sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the host country, the participants discussed ways to enhance the exchange of information and work jointly to counteract the trafficking of illicit goods and transnational organized crime, among other evils shared by the region.
In his opening remarks, Major General César Adonay Acosta, head of the Joint General Staff of the Salvadoran Armed Forces, invited the attendees to take advantage of this forum to solidify their collective efforts against an enemy who, he said, is constantly evolving. “We’re convinced that national, inter-agency, regional, and international efforts to eradicate the violence generated by organized crime should bear fruit for our peoples, who aspire to live in an atmosphere of peace that can enable national development,” he affirmed.
For his part, General Douglas Fraser, commander of SOUTHCOM, emphasized the importance of the role played by the region’s Armed Forces, although he insisted that they are only part of a broader solution to the problem of transnational organized crime. The true solution, he said, requires the joint commitment of all government agencies and the entire society in general.
In addition, Gen. Fraser highlighted the fact that in the last two years, he has witnessed significant progress in the area of regional collaboration, and he specifically mentioned Operation Martillo, which unites the strengths of several U.S. agencies (the Defense Department, the State Department, the Homeland Security Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard) and “many international allies who have united to impede drug trafficking in the Central American Caribbean and Pacific.”
At a press conference held during the event, Gen. Fraser said that, up to now, Operation Martillo has resulted in the interdiction of approximately 25 metric tons of cocaine and other drugs, as well as the arrest of more than 50 people. Meanwhile, the head of the Joint General Staff of the Salvadoran Armed Forces affirmed that his country’s Military already has the necessary resources to support Operation Martillo and “is deployed in a way that corresponds to the Salvadoran president’s willingness to support public safety.” “We can’t address transnational organized crime with unilateral strategies. It’s necessary to integrate our strategies in a common front so that the support given by the Armed Forces to public safety can be more effective and have better results,” he explained.
In addition to leaders of the Armed Forces of Central America, representatives of the Armed Forces of Chile and Colombia, the U.S. Northern Command, the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC), the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), the U.S. State Department, Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF-S), and the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies participated in the event.
During the course of the conference, the attendees had the opportunity to hear presentations about the work being done by the Armed Forces of the different countries, as well as the implementation and results of Operation Martillo, in which 14 nations from the hemisphere are participating, among other topics.