Colombia, a major contributor in the fight against drug trafficking

Colombia, a major contributor in the fight against drug trafficking

By Dialogo
May 07, 2014

In early April, military leaders from 12 nations gathered in Guatemala City to attend the 9th Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC), where they discussed the potential issues and strategies of Operation Martillo, as well as the transformation that the armed forces must undergo to confront the new threats, involving Cyber Warfare and Energy Security.

Diálogo:met with the Chief of the Colombian Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragán, to talk about this and other issues.

Diálogo: What are the contributions currently made by the Colombian Armed Forces to Operation Martillo, and what are the long term plans?

General Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragán: The Colombian Military Forces have an illicit crop eradication strategy, known as “Plan Resplandor,” (Radiance), based on spraying, using mobile eradication groups as well as soldiers and police officers to do it manually.
We are also reinforcing the Counter Drug Special Brigade (BRACNA), which will have a fourth battalion with the aim of strengthening spraying efforts for this year. It is important to point out that the BRACNA is confronting the drug trafficking chain in a comprehensive way. Likewise, we are reinforcing the blockade and interdiction efforts made by the National Navy, with sea patrol boats built with nationally developed technology; and by the Air Force, by using their radars in strategic areas.

Diálogo: What are your immediate goals as commander of the Colombian Armed Forces?

General Rodriguez: First of all, I intend to continue with a task already underway, which is a priority not only for the Ministry of National Defense, but also for the Armed Forces' leadership, which aims at the wellbeing and legal security of all men and women in the institution. Secondly, I intend to continue to strengthen intelligence as the main way to protect military forces, especially from current threats such as cyber warfare and cyber terrorism. Also, as my predecessors have done, I would like to continue strengthening inter-agency and joint operations, which have allowed the current government to conduct the peace process.

Diálogo: What is the main current challenge of the Colombian Armed Forces?

General Rodriguez: To continue the military disruption against terrorism, so that we can continue to obtain strategic results to allow the national government to continue its positive dialogue for the benefit of the Colombian State, with an absolute respect for human rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Diálogo: What is the participation of the Colombian Armed Forces in the fight against drug trafficking?

General Rodriguez: Colombia is the main contributor in the fight against drug trafficking. We have disrupted powerful cartels that used to smuggle huge amounts of drugs into the United States and Europe. With other countries, we are helping to close routes and control the air space, hence preventing the transit of drugs from our country towards consumer nations. Presently, we are a leader in training countries to counter drug trafficking.

Diálogo: What does it take to defeat this and other threats?

General Rodriguez: States should conduct a higher joint effort to educate new generations, in view of the risks involved in drug trafficking in all its stages, and the impact of which has an enormously high cost for the development of societies in the world.

Diálogo: What is the impact of illicit trafficking in military and security environments?

General Rodriguez: In the military arena, the threat [terrorism] uses drug trafficking as its main source of funding due to the profit obtained with that activity; in the field of security, they use logistic resources to attack the civil population and the economy of the country.

Diálogo: What are the benefits of working with other nations, such as the United States, to confront illicit trafficking and other regional threats?

General Rodriguez: Undoubtedly, for a country like Colombia, technology transfers are essential, as well as knowing which transnational organizations are directly involved with drug trafficking.

Diálogo: What collaboration programs do the Armed Forces of Colombia have with those of other countries in the region?

General Rodriguez: Since the current government took office and until 2013, we’ve trained more than 18,000 members of the Armed and Security Forces from 63 countries. In other words, we trained about 6,000 Americans, 9,000 Central Americans, over 500 people from the Caribbean, 2,800 South Americans and over 300 people from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania. In 2013, specifically, we trained more than 8,000 people from 48 nations, while the Colombian Police and Military have cooperated with members of the Mexican, Costa Rican, Peruvian, Salvadoran, Honduran, Guatemalan and Panamanian Armed Forces, among others, with a greater focus on those areas related to citizen security, prevention and crime control, reinforcement of military and police specialties, and the fight against international drug trafficking.

Diálogo: How do you expect the new Regional Domain Awareness and Cooperative Situational Information Integration systems will help/benefit your country and the region in the fight against transnational illicit trafficking?

General Rodriguez: There is no question that the use of new technologies is beneficial to preventing and controlling drug trafficking in the region. Also, the effectiveness of troops deployed to conduct the mission will reinforce the results and seizures made in the fight against illicit trafficking. These systems will improve real-time information sharing between regional countries and will allow us to focus efforts and coordinate different ways to combat the threat posed by transnational crime.