Diálogo interviewed Colombian Army General Luis Fernando Navarro Jiménez, commanding general of the Military Forces, during the Central American Security Conference 2021, held in Panama City, June 22-23.
Diálogo: What threats are coming from Venezuela, including the growing influx of narcotrafficking that affects stability and security in Colombia?
Colombian Army General Luis Fernando Navarro Jiménez, commanding general of the Military Forces: We share more than 2,219 kilometers of land border with Venezuela, an area that is quite porous and, unfortunately, where a number of illegal activities such as narcotrafficking, migrant trafficking, smuggling, and arms trafficking take place, carried out by the ELN [National Liberation Army], dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Clan del Golfo, and Los Caparros. To combat transnational organized crime in this area, we need binational cooperation, as we’ve seen that regions that border Venezuela become safe havens for Colombian criminal groups. However, the Venezuelan regime is not combating them.
Diálogo: What is the approach of the Colombian Military Forces on human rights and international humanitarian law, as part of the education policy plan for the Public Force?
Gen. Navarro: The issue of human rights and international humanitarian law is one of our main bastions. Our center of gravity is legality and legitimacy, principles that pave the way for us with regard to how we carry out military operations and how we interact with the civilian population. This fundamental policy dates back many years, as soldiers, in essence, are taught to protect their fellow men and to respect their adversaries.
We have certifications in this field and programs that are reviewed periodically, and that is what leads us to be a force that defends and respects human rights and complies with international humanitarian law. That’s a golden rule for the Colombian Military Forces.
Diálogo: What type of cooperation does Colombia have with the United States, in terms of intelligence and cyberdefense?
Gen. Navarro: Intelligence cooperation helps us fight transnational organized crime and illicit economies. In this respect, we carry out training, learning, and exchange of unclassified doctrine, which is very important for both countries. In the same way, we exchange lessons learned and good practices, respecting the laws and regulations of both countries.
U.S. cooperation in cyberdefense is very important from the point of view of capacity and diagnostics, because it allows us to determine our capabilities in this area to improve our technologies, in such a way that we can guarantee the protection of the Colombian State, its resources, and infrastructure.
Diálogo: There have been six iterations of the Orion International Naval Campaign to Combat Drug Trafficking. What are the results of this campaign?
Gen. Navarro: Operation Orion is a clear example of what international cooperation is in the fight against narcotrafficking. There is great effort and a collective will from more than 37 countries that combine their capabilities for a common goal. International narcotrafficking mafias have felt the results of Orion, because there are arrests; networks are dismantled; and cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana, coca base paste, and chemicals are seized. This operation is a great experience that strengthens and unites the countries that take part in it.