Guatemala Joins Common Effort against Narcotrafficking
By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo November 26, 2018Combined work and real-time information sharing with regional partners are institutional priorities for the Guatemalan Navy. Its commander, Vice Admiral Juan Randolfo Pardo Aguilar, is “all in” with navies of the region to counter narcotrafficking threats and transnational criminal organizations.
Vice Adm. Pardo participated in the XXVIII Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC) in Cartagena, Colombia, July 23-26, 2018. The commander spoke with Diálogo about his participation at IANC, regional combined operations, and Guatemala’s achievements in the fight against narcotrafficking, among other topics.
Diálogo: How important is Guatemala’s participation at IANC?
Vice Admiral Juan Randolfo Pardo Aguilar, commander of the Guatemalan Navy: It’s important for Guatemala because we work together with the naval forces of the region and confront transnational threats. As long as our navies operate together and our units are connected, we can interact and confront threats in a combined fashion for better outcomes.
Diálogo: IANC centers on regional navies’ responsibility to combat narcotrafficking and related crimes. Why is it important for countries’ naval forces to combine operations? What are you doing to counter these challenges?
Vice Adm. Pardo: Our efforts are better if we combine operations. We conduct very important operations in the region. We share successes with Mexico in terms of information exchanges and converging operations. We have an excellent relationship with the United States through JIATF South [Joint Interagency Task Force South], where we have a liaison officer. Indeed, we do operate and interact with other navies.
Diálogo: What is the Guatemalan Navy’s contribution to the regional effort against narcotrafficking?
Vice Adm. Pardo: We contribute our capabilities and efforts when we take part in operations. In other words, being “all in” and operating with everyone to achieve positive results as we showed in the most recent operations.
Diálogo: How do the Guatemalan Armed Forces interoperate with one another and with other Guatemalan agencies to counter these scourges?
Vice Adm. Pardo: In Guatemala, our constitutional Army is a single, indivisible body, composed of air, naval, and land forces. The three forces operate hand in hand. No force operates individually; we work together, and that enables us to have positive outcomes in our national territory. Our special units in the Guatemalan Navy also operate in other environments and cooperate with the Marine Brigade and its naval commands. We also operate with ground forces when required. All this gave us significant results. For example, we work directly with the Guatemalan Air Force, which provides air platforms to carry out reconnaissance, hence optimizing the use of resources.
Diálogo: What’s the most important project the Navy is working on?
Vice Adm. Pardo: We are doing our best to get financial support, either nationally or internationally, to improve our capabilities by modernizing our ships. We have an acquisition arriving in the third quarter of 2020, an 87 foot-long Metal Shark Defiant 85 ship. After 50 years working with used ships, we will finally have a new one. We are also seeking funding to buy an amphibious landing ship from Colombia, so we can keep our units at sea longer and farther away, to patrol for 15 to 20 days with intercepting vessels onboard to respond to different warnings. We are working on creating the Second Marine Brigade on the Pacific coast. This Brigade is currently based in Izabal with a battalion deployed in the Pacific and the Caribbean.
Diálogo: Combined operations of Guatemalan and Mexican naval forces dealt harsh blows to narcotrafficking. To what do you attribute this combined success?
Vice Adm. Pardo: The trust among naval forces is what strengthened these achievements. If I trust the armed forces, I will share relevant information no matter who gains from it, because what matters is the result. The trust we built between the two navies, the camaraderie, and the concrete results strengthen operations.
Diálogo: What’s the importance of real-time communications for successful navy operations in the fight against these crimes?
Vice Adm. Pardo: Transnational threats do not “sail,” but “run.” So real time is vital. Outdated information is useless, because what this information could have been worth two hours ago is gone. Therefore, communicating information in real time is essential for success.
Diálogo: Guatemala is one of the Northern Triangle countries. How do naval forces of the area combine to combat threats?
Vice Adm. Pardo: We coordinate actions with the Salvadoran Navy, such as converging operations, which we also carry out with Honduras and Mexico, even though they are not part of the Northern Triangle.
Diálogo: What kind of combined work does the Guatemalan Navy carry out with the United States?
Vice Adm. Pardo: We carry out combined operations with the United States. For example, our liaison officer at JIATF South provides us with useful information to strengthen operations. We also have U.S. support to train personnel of the Naval Special Forces Command and the Marine Corps.
Diálogo: What is your message to commanders of regional naval forces?
Vice Adm. Pardo: IANC helps us see that we have common transnational threats, and as long as we can achieve unity, communication, and trust, we will get better results. We need to integrate the armed forces at a regional level in Central America, South America, and North America, as results would multiply. IANC encourages the growth of our navies.