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Interview with Brig. Gen. Ancil Antoine, Director General of the Inter-American Defense Board

Interview with Brig. Gen. Ancil Antoine, Director General of the Inter-American Defense Board

By Dialogo
April 08, 2011

The Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) is an international committee of nationally appointed defense officials who develop collaborative approaches on common defense and security issues facing the Americas. The IADB provides technical advice and services to the Organization of American States.

In 2006, Brigadier General Ancil W. Antoine became the IADB’s first Director General, a position he holds until this day. Diálogo spoke with Brigadier General Antoine during the Caribbean Security Conference, which took place in February in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Brigadier General Antoine discussed the challenges facing the region and how defense issues have evolved since his tenure as the former Chief of Defense of Trinidad and Tobago.

Diálogo – What major differences do you see now from when you were Trinidad and Tobago’s Chief of Defense in 2006?

Brig. Gen. Antoine – When I vacated the position of Chief of Defense Staff we were in an expansion mode. At that time we were acquiring OPV (Off-Shore Patrol Vessels), helicopters… the force was expanding. Now there is a contraction because of finances, and a smaller budget. So the Off-Shore Patrols have been cancelled. We are still acquiring helicopters. There is a reduction in personnel, so the change really is budgetary.

Diálogo – What do you see as the main problem, in terms of security, in Trinidad and Tobago today?

Brig. Gen. Antoine – Crime is the main problem; a spin-off from the drug trade. Guns, the proliferation of guns, and we are having a great increase in human trafficking. It’s the same problem that is plaguing the entire Caribbean basin and Central America.

Diálogo – So you think it’s an illicit trafficking problem to begin with and then it evolves into gangs, intra-gang killing, etc.?

Brig. Gen. Antoine – Yes. Small arms. Because the drugs come with the guns. The drugs go on to Europe and the United States, but the guns stay. So there are a lot of guns available for the young men to fight their turf wars or to protect their illicit contraband goods. As a result, crime, in particular homicides, has increased dramatically over the past few years.

Diálogo – What is discussed in the Inter-American Defense Board in terms of combating illicit trafficking and all the problems that come with it?

Brig. Gen. Antoine – The Inter-American Defense Board has contacts with the various militaries throughout the hemisphere. So the IADB has technical autonomy on certain aspects, vis-à-vis defense and security. So we are able to bring expertise from any of the countries. We are able to source experts, to deal with issues, to provide advice, as the case may be, on a whole range of issues; whether it’s disaster management, illicit trafficking and drugs, small arms, demining, whatever the case may be.

Diálogo – How do you see the evolving role of the military in the region?

Brig. Gen. Antoine – Jamaica has a good model of combining the military and police working together. However, the military in the Caribbean – English speaking Caribbean – do not have power of arrest. So therefore, by law, it is necessary for the military to be accompanied by the police in internal security operations that require the arrest of citizens. There must be a model, some doctrine, where the military and law enforcement can work together. Jamaica has years of experience with this; in dealing with the gangs. So Jamaica is now looking to write a doctrine, so that successive generations of military persons and police do not have to relearn the same lessons over and over again. And this can be shared by all nations in the region.

Diálogo – What is necessary to implement this in Trinidad, for example? Is there a need to amend the Constitution?

Brig. Gen. Antoine – No, there’s no need for an amendment to the Constitution, because the military continue doing what the military do and the police continue to do what the police do, but they work together a synergistic relationship that is better for the society as a whole. But the military cannot become law enforcement. The strength of the military is to do operations and then return to their barracks. That is something that we try to achieve in Trinidad and Tobago. The military will go into the role in support of the police, but after a while the military returns to their base. This way the military officers are not subjected to corruption by the drug cartels and the drug dealers, because they are only there on a mission for a short period of time; for a three month period or so. After that three month period, the military forces go back to their barracks and they teach others their lessons learned. They are debriefed and they are retrained before they go back and engage the population, the gangs, and the police. The problem with the police is that the police are in positions for a long period of time. Therefore they are easily susceptible to bribes, to corruption, etcetera.