Drug, arms, and human trafficking and cash smuggling are some of the crimes carried out in the skies that affect all nations. In order to learn about ways to deal with this type of trafficking and work in a more timely, effective, and forceful manner, Colombia hosted the first international seminar to analyze the Convergence of Hemispheric Threats in Illegal Air Trafficking.
The Colombian Military Forces-organized event, based on their experience in the fight against narcotrafficking, brought together some 120 military experts from the air forces of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as international organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Customs Association, with its Colibri project.
As part of the September agenda, participants analyzed topics such as the evolution of drug trafficking in Colombia, its impact on the air domain, and the importance of the Zeus Strategy in maritime and air interdiction, a strategy led by the Colombian Aerospace Force (FAC) and U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-South). They also addressed cooperative security threat dynamics in the hemisphere, placing special emphasis on air dominance, among others, the FAC said in a statement.
“It’s important to recognize that narcotrafficking and the illicit use of aircraft continues to be a current phenomenon in the region, threatening the exercise of rights, institutionality, democracy, the environment, and citizens in general,” Brigadier General Juan Jaime Martínez Ossa, head of the FAC’s Air, Space, and Cyberspace Intelligence Headquarters, told Diálogo. “Its approach, study, and projection, in spaces such as this one, make it possible to delve into multiple and holistic perspectives that promote solutions, lines of effort, and operations of a multilateral nature, to anticipate, control, and weaken it.”
“This type of meeting for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC] is extremely important, because it creates synergies with other agencies, both local and international, and creates working tables, creates new initiatives, creates new ideas, and strengthens the ties that already exist, strengthens ties for the fight against international crime,” Sergio Naranjo, UNODC coordinator of cargo passenger control programs in Latin America, told the press. “Definitely, these types of meetings are more than advisable, and as I say they contribute to the synergy between states and with international organizations such as the United Nations.”
The seminar showed, among others, the results of the Air Bridge Denial Agreement, signed between the governments of Colombia and the United States, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in late October. This agreement, which arose to deny airspace to illegal aircraft that violate the sovereignty of Colombia and the Caribbean region, is considered among the most successful worldwide in the fight against aerial narcotrafficking and has achieved close to a 99 percent reduction of the illegal use of national airspace. It also has served to provide technical assistance to aircraft and to train FAC crews.
The combined effort of the Colombian and U.S. governments, as well as the work of FAC and JIATF-South members, has allowed Colombia to currently have a safe airspace and strong sovereignty over its airspace, the FAC said.
“It seeks to leverage the capabilities of all domains to attack, detect, and monitor illicit drug trafficking in the air and maritime domains within the Joint Operations Area, facilitating interdiction and apprehension to reduce the flow of drugs and degrade and dismantle transnational criminal organizations,” Brig. Gen. Martínez said.
The experiences shared among the invited countries also allow for strengthening the capabilities of these air forces in strategy readiness against narcotrafficking, Brig. Gen. Martínez said. The event highlighted the importance of interoperability, a fundamental pillar in any strategy that wants to effectively and efficiently apply the legitimate and legal capabilities of the State by integrating those of national forces and agencies.
“And subsequently by integrating these national capabilities, through a model of international cooperation, to complement the efforts of the forces and agencies of the States that become regional partners, with the purpose of weakening criminal economies and transnational organized crime,” Brig. Gen. Martínez concluded.