Discipline and hard work were the pillars with which Air Force General Eladio Casimiro González Aguilar, former commander of the Paraguayan Military Forces, led his troops. Following four years of leadership, from October 2018 until his October 13, 2022 retirement, Gen. González can now observe the fruits of his labor. Today, the Military Forces work under the principles of joint, combined, and interinstitutional coordination to face common threats.
Gen. González spoke with Diálogo prior to his retirement about the challenges in the fight against transnational criminal organizations and military modernization processes, among other topics.
Diálogo: What is new about the Military Forces concerning tasks to reestablish internal order, such as the fight against transnational crime, narcotrafficking, smuggling, contraband, and arms trafficking?
Air Force General (ret.) Eladio Casimiro González Aguilar, former commander of the Paraguayan Military Forces: Fighting transnational crimes represents a constant challenge of adaptation, ongoing improvement of capabilities, and optimization of training to fulfill the missions adequately and always within the legal framework. There are programs and projects underway within the Military Forces that include revising the regulatory framework and acquiring suitable material to confront the threats, but above all, we’ve strengthened cooperation channels with Brazil, with whom we share an extensive river and land border in areas where the transnational threats of greatest impact and danger are concentrated.
Diálogo: How do the Military Forces contribute to the regional fight against cross-border threats?
Gen. González: The Paraguayan Military Forces, through their Army, Navy, and Air Force units, execute actions against cross-border threats, especially against drug and arms trafficking, carrying out, within their legal functions, patrols and interventions against narcotrafficking organizations on the rivers that border Brazil and Argentina, conducting operations to detect narcotrafficking using aerial transport, and acting on land borders, mainly with Brazil in joint and combined operations to attack the illicit production of marijuana, and destroy clandestine airstrips, among other tasks.
All the drug seized, members of criminal organizations captured, as well as operations carried out to eradicate illicit marijuana crops within the national territory, airspace, and jurisdictional waters, contribute to reducing the supply of drugs, which main destinations are other countries bordering Paraguay and also outside the region.
Diálogo: Why is it important for the Military Forces to work in a joint and combined manner to confront common threats, such as transnational criminal organizations?
Gen. González: The nature of the threat is complex; criminal groups take advantage of the terrain, the difficulties for control and often the restrictions for law enforcement bodies involving international jurisdictions or borders, all to gain advantages for their illicit activities. These actions require a multidimensional and comprehensive response from the Military Forces, with joint operations, extensive exchange of information and intelligence, and international coordination through combined operations in order to be efficient in combating cross-border crimes, especially with regard to narcotrafficking.
A concrete example was Operation Basalt [Operación Basalto], a combined operation between Paraguay and Brazil; and joint with the integration of the Internal Defense Operations Command (CODI), where combat elements of the Army, Navy, and Air Force participated; and interagency, since it involved the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD), the National Police, and the Interagency Unit to Combat Smuggling. The operation was carried out simultaneously with Brazil’s Operation Agate. The operation began on July 23  and lasted 10 days to combat cross-border and environmental crime. Basalt yielded historic results such as the seizure and incineration of more than 415,000 kilograms of illegal marijuana ready for consumption, the detection and destruction of 4 clandestine airstrips used for cocaine trafficking by air, and the location and destruction of 18 marijuana processing centers and 57 illicit drug storage camps, among other achievements. Basalt caused a financial loss to criminal organizations estimated at more than $12.5 million (considering the value of the drug at the low market price in Paraguay).
Diálogo: What’s new in terms of counternarcotics interdiction operations in support of SENAD?
Gen. González: CODI, in its model of organization and joint, interinstitutional work, is a successful example in every sense. The sum of the contribution of different capabilities of the Military Forces, associated with the correct use of SENAD’s intelligence on criminal groups that engage in narcotrafficking, have allowed us to substantially improve efficiency for the interdiction of illicit drugs in Paraguayan waters, airspace, and territory.
From 2019 until the first week of September 2022, more than 17.4 million kg of illicit marijuana have been prevented from reaching regional consumption markets, as well as 3,557 kg of cocaine, in addition to airplanes, vehicles, and properties seized from criminal organizations, causing a financial loss to these organizations of more than $571 million in that period.
Diálogo: What is the role of the Military Forces in terms of environmental security?
Gen. González: The Paraguayan Military Forces created specialized units to deal with environmental aspects within their area of responsibility and for eventual contingencies under the name of Green Helmets, which act mainly together with the national environmental authority, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development (MADES), supporting its control and oversight actions in national parks and protected environmental areas. It is also important to understand that when eradicating illicit marijuana crops, we are also acting to protect the environment, since most of the illicit crops are located within environmental areas (forest reserves) protected by law (private and public), being an important cause of deforestation of our native forest. We are also working to raise awareness among the personnel deployed in the different units countrywide so that they become controllers and multipliers of the care and protection of the environment.
Diálogo: What progress has been made in the area of gender integration?
Gen. González: At the present time, female personnel are fully included in the activities of the Military Forces, which is a key factor in their modernization and professionalization. The Military Forces have been promoting a draft regulation in order to seek equal opportunities, maternity protection, breastfeeding support, mitigate inequality, and gender violence discrimination, among other aspects.
Today we provide training and counseling for professional development on equal terms for men and women. Women are accepted in training and coaching schools and occupy functions and positions in accordance with their grades and capabilities. Similarly, we have increased the deployment of female personnel (officers and noncommissioned officers) in United Nations-mandated peacekeeping missions, and several have been sent on study tours abroad.
Diálogo: What is the progress in plans to improve the Military Forces’ defense capabilities?
Gen. González: We are developing our “Tesareko Mombyry 2022-2052 Transformation and Modernization Plan” with the aim of establishing a strategic tool for modernizing the institution, optimizing management, and making innovations in organizational structure, human resources, doctrine, and means and infrastructure.