Interview with Paraguayan Major General Jorge Francisco Ramírez Gómez
By Dialogo September 28, 2011
Historically, Paraguay has provided humanitarian assistance to other countries, as was the case in Haiti following the January 12, 2010, earthquake. This aid consisted of food, blankets, search-and-rescue teams, and a medical contingent made up of surgeons and specialists. The country also sent nearly 30 men to provide security at food distribution locations on the Caribbean island, as part of the permanent international contingent of the UN peace stabilization force, MINUSTAH.
In order to talk about this and other topics, Diálogo spoke with Major General Jorge Francisco Ramírez Gómez, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Paraguayan Armed Forces, during the Third Annual South American Defense Chiefs Conference (SOUTHDEC), held in Santiago, Chile, on August 30 and September 1.
DIÁLOGO: General, can you say something about the Paraguayan Armed Forces’ contribution, within the country and regionally, in terms of humanitarian aid?
Major General Jorge Francisco Ramírez Gómez: We’ve been engaged in several humanitarian-aid activities within the country in collaboration with the Southern Command. This is very well received by the public; people like it. Likewise, we’re also in a position to help in cases of natural disasters, which are cyclical in the country, something you can plan for, so that there comes a time where we’re getting ready for droughts or floods, which are characteristic of the region where Paraguay is located.
DIÁLOGO: There are bilateral agreements between countries, but what do you think about the creation of a center, an organization that would bring together several countries, as was mentioned at the conference? Would you agree with something like that?
Gen. Ramírez Gómez: Yes, because what can chiefly be obtained is standardization of the procedures that we generally have when there are floods on the big rivers. So if we standardize our procedures, we could, together with the Armed Forces, succeed in providing better help in reaching people to see what they need at that moment. Recently there have been storms, for example, and sometimes you can’t predict what day they’re going to arrive. So that would be a good opportunity: standardizing procedures in order to be able to collaborate across countries.
DIÁLOGO: Does Paraguay have peace forces in other countries?
Gen. Ramírez Gómez: Yes, we’re in Haiti, and then we have a multi-function engineering battalion. We also have people working with Argentina in Cyprus. We have military observers in several countries; that is, this is our contribution to the peace we’re forging with the United Nations.
DIÁLOGO: In the event that this regional center is set up, would U.S. participation be welcome?
Gen. Ramírez Gómez: Yes, because no country is exempt from suffering a natural disaster. As far as international aid is concerned, it comes from any country, and in reality, in order to be able to carry out a centralization of tasks, there should be a center that can be in command when there’s a natural disaster in several countries.
DIÁLOGO: Changing the subject a bit, what do you feel is the greatest threat to Paraguayan security at this time?
Gen. Ramírez Gómez: Drug trafficking, which we’re fighting. The Armed Forces don’t participate directly, but we have men involved in the fight against drug trafficking now. The famous Army of the Paraguayan People (Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo) is a group of criminals, not the ones considered a threat for the military.