Colombia’s Center for Strategic Security Studies Addresses Regional Threats

Colombia’s Center for Strategic Security Studies Addresses Regional Threats

By Dialogo
March 21, 2016




On March 8-11th, the Center for Strategic Security Studies (CREES) at the Colombian War College in Bogotá, held an international seminar on the evolution of terrorist insurgencies into transnational organized crime
. Attending the event, which was the eighth seminar held at the CREES facilities since it was established in 2014, were Military and civilian representatives from more than 18 countries, including academics, researchers and expert speakers on the issues of security, terrorism, and organized crime, as well as future security decision makers from the participating countries.

Diálogo
attended the seminar and spoke with its director, Vice Admiral (Ret.) Luis Alberto Ordoñez Rubio, who retired after 37 years of service with the Colombian Navy and holds a Ph.D. in Education. Vice Adm. Ordoñez explained that CREES emerged as a regional initiative against threats to security in the hemisphere – both traditional threats and those that are evolving to stay relevant and achieve their nefarious goals.

DIÁLOGO:
What is the focus and purpose of the Center for Strategic Security Studies?

CREES director Vice Admiral (Ret.) Luis Alberto Ordoñez Rubio:
CREES was created as an initiative of the Ministry of Defense, in close coordination with Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) and the U.S. Joint Special Operations University. The idea behind CREES is to achieve joint management of all of the security issues in the region, starting at the academic level, and addressing everything that has to do with the threats – both the new and the traditional threats that are evolving – and all subjects related to transnational crime. The idea is to achieve shared visions, to establish an academic network that will support the study of these issues. Finally, we want to generate confidence, support, and collaboration among all of the countries in the region that are being affected by these phenomena, because if we are unable to work together, these groups that are gaining so much strength could definitely cause us a lot of harm.

DIÁLOGO:
How did CREES come to exist as a separate entity from the War College (despite falling under its umbrella) and how was its curriculum created? What is the importance of having a center like CREES in the region?

Vice Adm. (Ret.) Ordoñez Rubio:
Based on its focus. The Colombian War College (ESDEGUE) has its center for studies, which is the Center for Strategic National Security and Defense Studies, but CREES has a different purpose. Its mission and aims are different. CREES is oriented towards the region. It is a center that deals much more with regional issues than those that are particular to Colombia.

CREES is important because in certain respects we are unique in what we do. While there are other similar centers, they have different approaches and different objectives. CREES has the specific aim of creating shared visions, collaborating and creating an academic network, which is very specific to CREES. Also, it is a center that has been created in Colombia, which has had many problems related to terrorism and insurgent groups. Given our many years of experience, it is fitting that it be created and generated from a country like ours right now, which has somehow managed to overcome many of these problems with the joint efforts of the Military, the police, and foreign support... all of this makes it a good time to be working with CREES.

DIÁLOGO:
Do you think Colombia could become a regional leader in the fight against terrorism, similar to its role in relation to drug trafficking?

Vice Adm. (Ret.) Ordoñez Rubio:
Yes, Colombia’s experience against the narcoterrorist groups of the past and present definitely endows us with a lot of expertise. We have been successful in controlling these problems in Colombia and all that experience adds up. The most interesting thing here is not just the fact that the country has done a good job of handling the internal cooperation between different state actors, but that it has also done so at the international level. Such is the case with the United States, where there has been cooperation and a very strong partnership, and with other countries we work with in the Caribbean, with whom we have this support and these collaborations. I believe that it is very enriching and allows us to now be able to address this issue.

DIÁLOGO:
What is the importance of the successful relationship with U.S. SOCSOUTH and other friendly nations in the region?

Vice Adm. (Ret.) Ordoñez Rubio:
The relationship with the United States has always been very important for Colombia. I believe that it is a two-way relationship in which we have always felt the support and the backing of the United States, while Colombia has also been a very important partner, as we can see in the results.

We also have good cooperation agreements with other countries – in the Caribbean, for example, we have done very good work with the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France, which all have interests in the Caribbean. There is good cooperation with all of them. This has been essential to achieving good results, especially against drug trafficking, which is perhaps the greatest issue we face.

DIÁLOGO:
What type of students does CREES look to attract? Why?

Vice Adm. (Ret.) Ordoñez Rubio:
Based on our work with the support of the SOCSOUTH, we always welcome military and civilian students who are very involved in the field of regional security, which includes the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. We have 20 to 25 participants from these countries attending every event we do through CREES. And within Colombia, we invite think tanks, academia, universities, institutions of the Colombian state – Military, as well as police and civilian – all of whom are involved in security issues.

DIÁLOGO:
What is the importance of offering courses in conjunction with SOCSOUTH, such as the seminar on terrorism and organized crime that we are attending this week?

Vice Adm. (Ret.) Ordoñez Rubio:
We have participants from 18 countries in this course, including Colombia, and the topic is extremely interesting because as its title implies – “From terrorist insurgency to transnational organized crime” – we cover all of the issues of convergence, of the experience that Central American countries have with the problem of gangs, and the same problems that we have in Colombia with criminal gangs. As a result, the subject is not only interesting but in some way focuses on how these phenomena are affecting societies, individuals, our communities, our children, and, as a result, public safety. Therefore, this is a very important issue and what is even more important is that it must be fought through collaboration and cooperation. No country can do this alone; cooperation is essential, and I think that these events allow you to create important links with people who right now have mid- or high-level positions in their governments, but later on will be more involved in the future of their countries. So it’s about creating these friendly and cooperative relations, this academic network that must come together through cooperation and collaboration among all countries against a problem that is common to all of us and that is affecting all of us.

DIÁLOGO:
What are your main challenges as the director of CREES?

Vice Adm. (Ret.) Ordoñez Rubio:
Being the director of the center has been a wonderful experience. I was active duty in the Colombian Navy for 37 years, but I have also pursued a career in academia. I earned a doctorate in education last year, which makes the work with the center very interesting. It is attractive work because at the academic level it is possible achieve everything we were discussing in the previous questions. The challenges are about consolidating the center. We have been up and running for a year and a half, but the center was also established with the particularity that while we were organizing ourselves we were already working on hosting events, doing research, writing papers and documents for our newsletter and the CREES magazine, which was launched last year. So the biggest challenge is to ensure that the strategic plan we have set through 2026 can be carried out as we have planned. The result will be a consolidated center, a center that is definitively a benchmark in the region and that accomplishes the task of unity, cooperation, and contribution to the future security of our nations, from Canada to Argentina and Chile, and including all of the Caribbean and Central America. With the strong support of the United States and the countries in the region, which have definitely been enthusiastic about the issue, I believe that we will succeed.

DIÁLOGO:
Besides having regional participation, are there also exchanges with teachers from other friendly nations who come to teach courses?

Vice Adm. (Ret.) Ordoñez Rubio:
One of the strategies that we have adopted to meet the 2026 goal of a consolidated, recognized center that is a reference in the region includes relationship building. In this vein, in the short life of the center, we have already had visits to the United States, we have been to Argentina, to Chile, this year we are scheduled to go to El Salvador we may be also be in Mexico... So the idea is to create these relationships that allow for academic mobility in the sense of having researchers come, and indeed they are coming, as we begin to send researchers out, as well. We have already participated in international events; we’re on our way. But that's the idea, the exchange of researchers, the exchange of documents, the exchange of publications and, of course, later, we plan to offer longer courses, deeper courses to assist people here in Colombia who we can train for periods of one month or so, but that are much deeper than what we’ve done so far with the eight international seminars that have already been offered. Then we will be able to move on to the next stage, academically.
Too much blather without saying anything important; let’s leave so much academia and doctorates behind and let’s see reality objectively and materially: they’re screwed!!!
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