Colombia Trains Guatemalan Marines in Anti-Narcotics River Operations
By Manuel Ordoñez/Diálogo August 15, 2016Colombian Marine (COLMAR) troops spent two months training Guatemala’s Naval Infantry Brigade on intercepting narcotics shipments on rivers as part of the U.S. Colombia Action Plan (USCAP) sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and executed by U.S. Marine Corps Forces South (MARFORSOUTH) in this case. The training took place on the waters of the Dulce River in the northern department of Izabal, according to Lieutenant Colonel Karen Pérez, spokesperson for the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense. Between April 4th and June 2nd, seven COLMAR teaching assistants and one officer trained 14 Guatemalan Marines in daytime and nighttime environments in military swimming, small boat maneuvering, river combat, tactical shooting, first aid, survival in water, procedures for leading a river combat team, and riverine operations, Lt. Col. Pérez explained. "The purpose of the training is to give naval infantry units techniques and skills for the fight against drug trafficking in riverine operations," Lt. Col. Pérez said. USCAP program The USCAP is a regional security cooperation program by which SOUTHCOM Service Components and National Guard Bureau facilitate Colombian Military-led “Countering Transnational Criminal Organizations Building Partner Capacity” mobile training, subject matter expert exchanges, and military academic instruction in the region. "Colombia is a key U.S. partner that is instrumental in SOUTHCOM's mission to counter transnational organized crime. Colombia's military is professional, tactically capable, and able to export their counter narcotics training amongst the U.S. partner nations in Latin America," said U.S. Marine Corps Forces South Captain Hector Infante, South and Central American desk officer. In addition to sponsoring the event, SOUTHCOM, also provided MARFORSOUTH personnel who supervised the Colombian sailors during their stay. “The partnership between the Colombian Marines and MARFORSOUTH is an example of the close relationship between Colombia and the United States. Together, they enhance the capacity of Guatemala's Marine Brigade through mobile training teams combined with U.S. Marine Corps Security Cooperation teams," added Capt. Infante. "The goal of the mission is to export Colombian training so that others can use their experience in confiscating narcotics and in riverine operations. This is so that they can later transfer this knowledge to other countries in Central America," said U.S. Marine Corps Captain Joseph Thiel, officer in charge of the MARFORSOUTH team in Guatemala. Capt. Thiel added that SOUTHCOM collaborates with regional-level training to allow regional partner nations to support each other in any training they may need. Lieutenant Manuel Alejandro Calderón Ramírez, member of the Colombian Marine Corps who was part of the team that trained their Guatemalan counterparts, said that the intention of the river operations course is for the Guatemalan Navy to be able to apply the training to all of the country's navigable rivers. "For us to be able to deny the enemy or criminals the use of the nation's rivers and to make Guatemala one of the countries free of drug trafficking." Colonel Nelson Guillermo Tun Cortez, Commander of the Marine Corps Brigade in Guatemala, said that the training is extremely important for the young brigade, created just three years ago. “This training has been very important because it helps us fulfill our vision of being the most well-trained strategic brigade of the Guatemalan Army," he said. Guatemalan Army fights against drug trafficking Jorge Chinchilla, spokesperson for Guatemala’s National Civil Police (PNC), said, "The Army supports us in two ways: through the Special Naval Force, since neither the PNC nor the Public Prosecutor's Office has the ships to pursue drug traffickers in open sea, and they also collaborate with patrols through the Chortí and Tecún Umán task forces." Chinchilla stated that the Army's collaboration in seizures of drug shipments has been important, especially on the country's coasts and rivers. The Army's naval forces are collaborating with anti-narcotics forces in finding and seizing drug shipments in the high seas. According to Chinchilla, they have carried out operations and found drugs at a distance of up to approximately 50 nautical miles offshore. According to official data from the General Department of Anti-Narcotics Information and Analysis (SGAIA) of the National Civil Police, as of July 11th, the Guatemalan security forces have confiscated 5,777.5 kilograms of cocaine transported through Guatemalan territory. This quantity constitutes an increase in comparison with 2015, when only 6,000 kilograms of the substance was confiscated that entire year.