Paraguayan Military Increases Participation in Humanitarian Aid Operations
By Dialogo September 02, 2015Bravo, Paraguay!!!!! This digital site has interesting subjects. I would like you to include something regarding the conflicts between the countries in the region, specifically the issues of borders, which from time to time take on unexpected stardom.
A year ago, at the conclusion of the South American Defense Conference held in Chile, Major General Carlos Antonio Caballero Mayana, Joint Chief of Staff of the Paraguayan Armed Forces, announced that his country would host the V South American Defense Conference, in collaboration with the United States Southern Command. True to his word, the event took place in Asunción, from August 18 to 21.
Paraguayan Military and public security leaders met with their counterparts from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico (as an observer), Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela to discuss topics such as the fight against drug trafficking, the role of the armed forces in the United Nations’ (UN) peacekeeping missions, and others.
had the opportunity to meet with Army General Luis Gonzaga Garcete Espínola, commander of the Paraguayan Armed Forces during the event.
This year, at the V South American Defense Conference, there was a lot of discussion on fighting drug trafficking, but Paraguay’s problem is more often associated with the production of drug, more specifically marijuana, isn't it?
General Luis Gonzaga Garcete Espínola:
Undoubtedly we produce large amounts of marijuana, but Paraguay is also a transit country for cocaine, probably because of its privileged location within the South American context, in the central part of the mainland.
And with respect to the use of the Armed Forces in the fight against drug trafficking, do you tend to consider it as an exceptional role, like Brazil, or a traditional one, like the Colombian Military, which has virtually assumed total responsibility for drug trafficking?
I must always speak within the Paraguayan context. The Paraguayan Armed Forces are institutionally bound to combating drug trafficking. We listen to other commanders speak of the prestige and the good name that the Armed Forces have with respect to other institutions, the positive opinion that the people have about them for their training and the morale of the men who are involved in the fight. However, here, in Paraguay there is a National Anti-drug Secretariat, SENAT, of which 90 percent of its special agents are commissioned military service members. They are active military and they are deployed for a determined period of time; they are not retired agents. I think having them there for a specific time frame is a smart decision by the government and the authorities of the Armed Forces. They [the officers] take a course to become special agents within that unit, so that we [the Military] is indirectly doing the job of fighting drug trafficking.
Another topic discussed at the conference was the participation of the Armed Forces in humanitarian aid during disasters, etc. Can you tell us about the role of the Paraguayan Military in this regard?
In my opening remarks I said that natural disasters and humanitarian aid to the population are among the institution’s many challenges. We owe ourselves and come from the civilian population. We have relatives among them; we have an umbilical cord with society. I think we have the people’s and the government’s trust, because the Armed Forces are the most versatile instrument the state has to provide a helping hand when there is a need for it. Our participation during floods, for example, is undeniable. We offer our barracks, our own structures to civilians that suffer losses during floods. In addition, and something we couldn’t even consider in the past, we are building affordable housing for people in need. Our participation is very active in this regard, and it is thanks to this that we earned credibility in our society.
Is this credibility also due to the Paraguayan Armed Forces’ participation in peacekeeping missions?
Of course, they also come from peacekeeping missions. We have an agreement with the United Nations. We have a permanently committed contingent [in peacekeeping operations]. We have a multi-role company in Haiti as part of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). We have observers in various countries of Africa, as well as being part of the Argentine contingent in Cyprus. There is also an offer from Uruguay, with which we will surely serve under the United Nations.
After more than three years at the helm of SOUTHCOM, General John Kelly is about to retire. What stands out to you from this time frame with regard to improved relations between the Paraguayan and United States Armed Forces?
Our close relationship is definitely something to highlight, the closeness that General Kelly’s visit made us feel. Last year we hosted him during his visit on his second year, now we are hosting him here [at SOUTHDEC], and he already announced that this is his last visit. We are sorry to see him go. The Army of the United States always sends the right men to the right place, and surely his replacement will continue the same course, the same guidelines that he had with respect to the rest of the continent.
Would you like to add anything else?
I want to thank SOUTHCOM for trusting Paraguay to host the V South American Defense Conference this year, and express that we are always open. I hope all those who participated in this conference come to spend their holidays here in Paraguay; they are always welcome.