Central America Promotes Systematic Efforts of Cooperation
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo June 29, 2017Representatives from the Central American Armed Forces Conference (CFAC, per its Spanish acronym), comprising the armed forces of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, participated in the LXXXII Ordinary Meeting of Representatives (ROR, per its Spanish acronym) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, from May 15th-17th. The goal of the meeting was to prepare reports that will be further expanded and approved at the Ordinary Meeting of the High Council scheduled for July 11th–14th in Tegucigalpa. CFAC is an international military organization that seeks to contribute to the security, development, and integration of member states in accordance with the laws of each country. Created in 1997 for the purpose of promoting military integration in Central America, the institution conducts meetings, workshops, seminars and training on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, as well as other topics related to regional security, according to its website. Preparation work The ultimate goal of ROR is to promote permanent and systematic coordination, cooperation, and mutual support efforts. During the meeting, participants established six core topics: confronting emerging threats, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian aid operations, the role of the armed forces in support of public security, institutional cooperation and development, and environmental management. “We discussed various recommendations and conclusions on several of the core topics. [We were looking to] provide an optimal level of defense against threats to democracy, peace, and liberty,” Colonel Walter Smith Cruz, the Honduran Army representative to CFAC, told Diálogo. To that effect, the military delegates proposed that the Executive Committee conducts specialized supplemental activities, such as approving equipment for humanitarian rescue units needed by the countries during natural or manmade disasters. They also discussed training personnel of the units conducting these operations at the request of the affected country. During the meeting, they highlighted the participation of the Dominican Republic and Central American countries in “Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias,” an international exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to improve response and task-planning capacities during natural disasters. The exercise took place April 19th–28th in Guatemala. SOUTHCOM has coordinated the annual exercise with regional partner nations for more than a decade. “Through this core topic, we urge the strengthening of all our units’ training plans in order to solidify our humanitarian aid operations. Between January and April 2017, we conducted 4,432 activities related to humanitarian assistance,” Colonel Samuel Guzmán Leiva, the Guatemalan Army representative to CFAC, told Diálogo. Security considerations In accordance with the intelligence report on emerging threats, the Executive Committee recommended that a specific evaluation be conducted for each country to identify the latest drug-trafficking methods and trends since they are constantly changing. “Guatemala used to be considered a transit country for drugs. Now there are indications of poppy production, which is related to heroin,” Col. Guzmán said. Representatives of the armed services also recommended updating CFAC’s operations and administrative manuals, as well as the performance of coordinated operations at the International Political Boundary (LPI, per its Spanish acronym), with the goal of confronting current threats from transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, corruption, money laundering, and arms smuggling. “Central American armed institutions are continuously carrying out operations which contribute to regional security for the benefit of the population. In the first four months of 2017, Central American states carried out 488,467 operations to support public security and combat organized transnational crime,” Col. Smith emphasized. “A greater number of people linked to drug trafficking and illegal human trafficking were arrested. A higher volume of drugs intended to move to the United States was seized. These actions benefitted the population and contributed to improving regional security,” he added. CFAC, a model to follow “CFAC has become a model organization for other international institutions to follow. The Central American Integration System is interested in entering into a cooperation agreement with the agency. CFAC’s strengths are consensus, integration, trust, and cooperation among the armed forces,” Col. Guzmán said. For Col. Smith, criminal activity results in high levels of violence in Central America and the Dominican Republic. This causes family displacement to other cities and countries in the region, as well as the loss of their property and setbacks to their overall development. This likewise drives away foreign investment, which is needed to boost the region’s economies. “With the goal of further solidifying cooperation and coordination mechanisms between members [countries], real-time information and intelligence exchange systems must be strengthened. Also, the means of communication must be improved, since the operations conducted by CFAC units along LPI require a level of communication that allows for broad-based command, control, and coordination, with the goal of reacting to unexpected situations in a timely manner,” Col. Smith concluded.