Ecuador Joins SOUTHCOM with Partner Nation Military Advisor

Ecuador Joins SOUTHCOM with Partner Nation Military Advisor

By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo
June 21, 2021

Ecuador has joined the Partner Nation Military Advisor (PNMA) program at U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Army Colonel Juan Xavier Riofrío Játiva assumed the post in March 2021.

Col. Riofrío, a native of Quito with 35 years of military service, is one of the 11 military advisors in the PNMA, a program created in 1998 to increase mutual trust among participating countries, develop a higher level of teamwork, and help integrate and synchronize joint operations and plans.

Diálogo: What is the importance of taking part in the PNMA for Ecuador?

Ecuadorian Army Colonel Juan Xavier Riofrío Játiva, Partner Nation Military Advisor at SOUTHCOM: Threat and risk analysis in Ecuador, as noted in its defense policy, allows us to deduce that regional and global problems have a direct influence on the causes, as well as the opportunities to face them, thus optimizing each country’s national capabilities. SOUTHCOM, through its shared values and its lines of effort, is an organization that creates cooperation and strengthens regional relations. Ecuador’s foreign policy understands the importance of maintaining these ties that create regional stability and that bode well for our national security.

Ecuadorian Army Colonel Xavier Riofrío is decorated for his participation in the “CHIECUENGCOY” Horizontal Construction Engineering Company, as part of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, in 2007. (Photo: Ecuadorian Army Colonel Xavier Riofrío)

Diálogo: SOUTHCOM has 11 officers in the PNMA. Why is it important for partner nations in the Western Hemisphere to join this program?

Col. Riofrío: Transnational organized crime, narcotrafficking, illegal fishing, and smuggling, among others, have common causes, and their effects do not recognize borders of any kind. Due to the geography of the region, we share many natural advantages, but also the strong possibility of being punished by different kinds of disasters. Addressing the dialectic of cause and effect comprehensively in all these security problems and by sharing experiences and procedures, each of our countries can create shared knowledge that facilitates decision-making. Partner nations, through their military advisors, contribute to achieving one of the main goals of this command: the hemisphere’s security and prosperity. Cooperation is the way to achieve well-being for all, and military advisors help pave the way.

Diálogo: What are your goals as your country’s representative at SOUTHCOM?

Col. Riofrío: As the Ecuadorian Army officer to fill this role, my expectations and those of my country’s armed forces continue to grow, as we learn first-hand about the advantages and opportunities of cooperation. One of my goals is to start this mission and raise awareness about Ecuadorian military thinking. A medium-term objective is to disseminate, in the Ecuadorian Armed Forces, all the opportunities and their respective mechanisms to bring this cooperation to fruition, and to promote and manage the continuity of this very important role for my country will be one of my goals when my work at SOUTHCOM comes to an end.

Diálogo: What is your priority at this moment?

Col. Riofrío: When we wear the military uniform, the priority in our lives is, undoubtedly, the survival of each of our states, through full compliance with the legal framework and institutional efficiency, particularly that of the military, as the backbone. Institutional synergy allows democracy, sovereignty, the rule of law, and respect for human rights to become realities that favor our countries’ development and well-being. However, I must also say that the strength of an institution and of society lies in the strength of the simplest organization, which helps us aim our efforts and concerns toward achieving institutional, national, and regional goals. Having my family close and happy will always be my priority.

Ecuadorian Army Colonel Xavier Riofrío was part of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces Joint Command planning team, which led the planning to support citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020. (Photo: Ecuadorian Army Colonel Xavier Riofrío)

Diálogo: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your country, and how have the armed forces helped civilian authorities?

Col. Riofrío: The crisis produced by a pandemic was never considered as a threat in many of our countries, and therefore we never planned strategies for its management. The impact in my country is something we haven’t overcome yet; the economy has been seriously affected and worsened by the different crises going on in the region. Isolated effort has not created any pragmatic solutions. Regional stability, now more than ever, depends on the degree of international cooperation on this matter.

The support of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces to state institutions during the pandemic has been instrumental. The Joint Command analyzed the disease’s evolution and behavior and its respective effect on security, and used different tools and mathematical models to outline actions supporting state solutions. Subsequently, we supported the restrictive measures imposed by the competent authorities with all military personnel, creating a unit to support the problem’s epicenter in Guayas province. At present, with the virus attacking all regions in the country, this support continues, based on the guidelines of the newly-elected government, for which we anticipate comprehensive action on the part of all state institutions.

Diálogo: What lessons of cooperation do you hope to take to your country when you finish your mission at SOUTHCOM?

Col. Riofrío: I hope to take away several lessons, among those that close coordination and support for a common good, such as the security and stability of our hemisphere, are possible. Also, that effective actions and efficient use of resources facilitate the planning of favorable scenarios for the region, and that mutual trust, as well as transparency in defense policies and shared values, are a reality that help us fight comprehensively against common and simultaneous threats, which are transnational in nature and are not limited to national borders. Likewise, that the results of this cooperation not only allow security to generate development, but also serve as a model for our countries to follow, so they can integrate into many other fields, as the characteristics of the current and future scenarios in the region demand.