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Interview with Rear Admiral Germán González Reyes of the Colombian Armed Forces

Interview with Rear Admiral Germán González Reyes of the Colombian Armed			Forces

By Geraldine Cook
September 20, 2011

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Images of soldiers building a road in a remote location in the Colombian
countryside, photos of demobilized former FARC members, and the smiles of children
gathering to watch a movie in a town park make up the face of the strategy of Integrated
Action, part of Colombia’s Democratic Security Consolidation Policy.

Images of soldiers building a road in a remote location in the Colombian
countryside, photos of demobilized former FARC members, and the smiles of children
gathering to watch a movie in a town park make up the face of the strategy of
Integrated Action, part of Colombia’s Democratic Security Consolidation

During a visit to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida, in September
2011, Rear Admiral Germán González Reyes, in command of the Joint Integrated Action
Bureau of the Colombian Armed Forces General Command, spoke with Diálogo about the
achievements and challenges of a strategy that has enabled his country to take steps
forward in the area of security and social welfare, earning a vanguard position in
Latin America.

DIÁLOGO: Why was the Integrated Action strategy created, and of what does it

RADM Germán González Reyes: Integrated Action is a bridge
between the institutions responsible for security and the social side of things. The
fundamental objective is the coordination of state agencies and institutions, in
order to act in a joint and integrated way throughout the entire national territory,
in the social, economic, political, and military spheres, thereby guaranteeing the
rule of law, the social recovery of territory, the effective application of the
social state under the rule of law, and the neutralization of irregular armed

For example, General Integrated Action also has radio stations, with which we
reach those remote areas of the country, as well as special psychological-operations
groups (GEOS) that take a message of rapprochement to the population as part of
military operations.

A wide-ranging concept of civil and military cooperation began to be
developed in Colombia during the administration of President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla,
at the time that the Military was assigned the authority and capability to provide
social assistance to the most vulnerable communities, helping with the solution of
some basic needs. That gave rise to the initial concept of Civic-Military Action,
the ultimate purpose of which consisted in obtaining the support and backing of the
rural population. Starting in 2002, the Democratic Security Policy develops
Integrated Action in full, strengthening a tool that brings together the coordinated
and synergistic effort involved in the use of legitimate force.

DIÁLOGO: Is there any kind of agreement with the private sector?

RADM Germán González Reyes: Yes. Coordinated Integrated Action
works with the other state institutions and with the private sector to bring certain
solutions to the population. We hold development support days that consist of
bringing in general practitioners and specialist physicians, delivering medicine,
making referrals to hospitals; in sum, we seek the participation of businesses in
support of the medicine and of the doctors themselves who provide care.

Finally, we have Dispositive Integrated Action, which implements and supports
the National Consolidation Plan. At this time, we’re selecting 54 municipalities
that today are sites in the process of stabilization, meaning that the state is
going to make itself present with security, development projects, production
projects, education projects, health projects … in order to shift those red
areas to yellow areas and then to green areas.

DIÁLOGO: What have some of the successes of the Integrated Action plan been
since its launch in 2002?

RADM Germán González Reyes: There’s an example that we show off
with a great deal of pride: the Montes de María. That’s an area located in the
northern part of the country, where years ago, there was a presence by irregular
groups. There was displacement of the population of those areas due to insecurity.
An Integrated Action strategic plan was implemented, and we succeeded in dismantling
all the irregular groups in the area. We obtained a state presence with the
construction of roads to link several municipalities, and legal crops, such as
avocadoes, were promoted. That was done by the National Navy: it served as a bridge,
guaranteed security, facilitated agriculture, and arranged for the private sector to
come to this area to purchase the crops. Today, the population has returned home,
they’re farming, and the security environment is different.

We can also mention the case of the Task Force Omega area, La Macarena, where
we’re doing a project of the same kind. There were irregular groups there. Joint
Task Force Omega was assigned, basic levels of security were restored, and after
that, the state began to arrive. Today, roads, schools, and health centers have been
built, and production programs have been implemented, giving the population
alternatives for growing licit crops, instead of illicit crops such as coca.

DIÁLOGO: How is the fight against drug trafficking ingrained into the strategy
of Integrated Action?

RADM Germán González Reyes: Irregular groups and drug
trafficking always generate insecurity in the areas where they are. Integrated
Action does not combat drug trafficking as such; nevertheless, it’s a tool used by
the Military that supports military operations before, during, and after those
operations (institutional synergy). When the state arrives with the presence of the
Military, when it guarantees security and offers rural workers the opportunity of
growing bananas rather than coca, and it gives them options for getting them to
market and selling them, we are promoting a decrease in illicit drug cultivation.

DIÁLOGO: Colombia plays a vanguard role in Latin America with regard to
strategies of this kind. How can Colombia’s example be of use to other countries
in the region?

RADM Germán González Reyes: Several countries have visited us
for the purpose of learning about the procedures we carry out in Integrated Action
and on the operational side of things in general. Currently, support is being
provided to Central American countries and to Mexico. We’ve held workshops, talks,
training sessions, and meetings on the topic of Integrated Action, where we’ve
explained our procedures, generating an atmosphere of cooperation and advising on
the structuring of an Integrated Action Doctrine.

Likewise, a panorama of integrated action has been jointly constructed in the
different countries on our borders and across the Americas, establishing unilateral
and joint lines of action that take into account the advice provided on
civil-affairs issues and issues of integrated action in general.

DIÁLOGO: How are the United States and Colombia collaborating in order to
strengthen and implement the strategy of Integrated Action?

RADM Germán González Reyes: We’ve always relied on U.S.
collaboration and support in training, in equipment. I can say that projects are
currently underway to prevent the recruitment of children and adolescents. The
United States has a framework of cooperation with the Joint Integrated Action Bureau
to develop a variety of tools that can help to prevent forced recruitment and
encourage the demobilization of members of military armed groups through information
operations, in order to fulfill the objectives of integrated action.

Twelve Integrated Action companies were trained in partnership with the U.S.
Government, companies which will seek to position the concepts of legitimacy,
strengthening the institutional image, and rapprochement with the civilian
population on the operational and tactical level within the Armed Forces, in the
context of fourth-generation war.

DIÁLOGO: What is the most important challenge faced by your bureau at this

RADM Germán González Reyes: We have the ongoing challenge of
trying to increase favorable views of and trust in the Military among the
population. The Military is currently the most favorably viewed institution,
according to surveys that have been taken in both urban and rural areas. Maintaining
and improving that is one goal. Second is achieving an increase in demobilization
and achieving a decrease in forced recruitment by irregular armed groups; likewise,
continuing to fulfill the proposed objectives, by helping with military operations,
designing tools to neutralize multi-dimensional and situational threats, and
increasing preventive capabilities in response to those threats. In addition, it’s
important for the bureau to continue developing long-term strategies, to counteract
attacks on the state’s legitimacy, and to position the country as a leader and
pioneer of information operations in Latin America, in order to generate
international technical cooperation offerings.