“Improvisation never succeeds” could sum up the Caribbean Basin Coastal Surveillance and Maritime Security Summit (CABSEC) and the South American Security Summit (SAMSEC) 2022. Rear Admiral Exón Ascencio, deputy chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Salvadoran Armed Forces, made the statement during his presentation at the event held November 8-9, in Doral, Florida, referring to the fight against narcotrafficking, a common problem in all participating countries.
“We must always plan. With every gram of cocaine we seize, we save lives. By always planning and by carrying out a broader exchange of intelligence and information, these not only serve when the issue is to combat the plague of narcotrafficking, but also for other problems common to most Latin American and Caribbean countries,” Rear Adm. Ascencio added. “In other words, to combat mass migration, arms trafficking, gangs, human trafficking, money laundering, and corruption.”
The main objective of the CABSEC/CAMSEC conference is to serve as a forum for high-level analysis among senior leaders involved with maritime security in Latin America and the Caribbean. These combined forums provided a valuable meeting point for the maritime security community in the Western Hemisphere, bringing together ministers, defense chiefs, navy and coast guard commanders, law enforcement, diplomats, procurement specialists, national shipyard managers, as well as representatives of military equipment manufacturing companies from various parts of the world.
This year marks the first time the event has been held in person since 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. “Since the last time we met in this forum physically, we have seen and experienced stark reminders of the multifaceted threats to defense and security in the world. These range from natural phenomena, including climatic and biological, to man-generated circumstances, including the profit seeking or ideology promoting super-empowered individuals and hegemony pursuing states that are impatient of international law,” said Lieutenant General (r) Rocky Meade, former chief of Defence Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force (2016-2022), and CABSEC/SAMSEC chairman. “We know, I hope, that this region is not immune to even the most unwanted or atypical of these threats. It’s incredible to, once again, engage wit regional defense and security leaders and key industry players.”
Participants also discussed solutions to reconcile technical issues with operational tasks and budgetary constraints, so that the various navies can better fulfill their missions. “The construction of a single ship in my country involves more than 80 companies, generating thousands of jobs,” said Peruvian Navy Rear Admiral Enrique Arnáez, director of naval projects.
New routes to Europe
Commissioner Martín Arias, Costa Rica’s vice minister of Public Security and director general of the National Coast Guard Service, said that there was an increase in illegal drug trafficking in his country due to the creation of new transshipment routes to Europe.
“The use of state-of-the-art technology is important, but there also has to be greater partnership and co-responsibility between countries to combat new threats, because narcotraffickers and terrorists are constantly changing their tactics,” Commissioner Arias said. “Europe also has to do more, as we are doing in our region.”
The multidisciplinary presentations were also a good source to gain insights into new projects and developments in the shipbuilding industry, including platforms, sensors, and weapons systems. But they also served as an opportunity for presenters to showcase the current security situation, or lack thereof, in their nations.
Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe (2012-2014) said his country is going through “the most dangerous moment in its modern history.” He added: “We do not need a new MINUSTAH — despite the belief that they will end up sending another U.N. peacekeeping force to Haiti — but a small, very specialized army, with the support of the international community.”
Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss Gorman, chief of Defence Staff of the Jamaican Defence Force, prefers to bet on education and training, particularly among the youth. “Local training will generate a global impact,” Rear Adm. Wemyss Gorman said.
Or as Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel, chief of Defence Staff of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, summed up, “We must always seek to strengthen our relationships, as no country is in a position to solve these problems alone.”