While Mexico falls under the purview of U.S. Northern Command, the country is quite often invited to take part in U.S. Southern Command-led meetings, conferences, and combined exercises. Such was the case for PANAMAX 2022. Diálogo spoke with Mexican Navy Captain Carlos Renán Ancona, an intelligence officer within the Mexican Armed Forces’ General Staff, about his participation in this year’s exercise PANAMAX, where he served as director of the intelligence section of Multinational Force South.
Diálogo: How is intelligence gathering conducted in an exercise like PANAMAX?
Mexican Navy Captain Carlos Renán Ancona: What happens is that we have the support of U.S. Army personnel and sensors. We have the support of all those sensors, equipment, as well as human intelligence support and other components of the intelligence community to develop everything that is required to obtain information.
Diálogo: Can you explain how human intelligence is involved in the exercise?
Capt. Ancona: In terms of human intelligence, it’s basically personnel assigned to operations to obtain information. That part of intelligence is done when there are people who provide us with information, who are useful to us in developing products.
Diálogo: What about intelligence from satellites, radar, etc.?
Capt. Ancona: In [exercise] PANAMAX 2022 all of this was simulated, but we know that we have all these information capabilities, satellite images, different sensors, for example, aerial vehicles that provide aerial intelligence through night-vision sensors, infrared images, and so on. In exercises in which ships participate, of course, they have elements on the surface area to have a general view of what is happening in the maritime environment.
Diálogo: Mexico is technically under the purview of U.S. Northern Command. What is the importance of working with U.S. Southern Command?
Capt. Ancona: Mexico and Spain are the largest countries working on PANAMAX outside of U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility. In reality, Mexico works very often with Southern Command on the movement of narcotrafficking, because drugs come out of South America, Central America, and pass through Mexico and go to the United States or other places in the world. We share a lot of information and work very closely with Southern Command in many real-life activities, in our day-to-day work.
Diálogo: What is the most important thing you’re taking back to Mexico from this exercise?
Capt. Ancona: The processes. There are many processes that can be useful to us, the integration of all the work teams and all the sensors and procedures. Many of them can be very useful for what we do in Mexico. Of course, equally important are the interpersonal and professional relationships we make with our colleagues during the exercise.