Partner Nation Armed Forces United Against Transnational Crime
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo August 01, 2017Hoping to improve their operational response level, on July 13th members of the Armed Force of El Salvador (FAES, per its Spanish acronym) completed a course on “Tactical Training” and a course on “Planning for and Managing Counter Drug Trafficking.” The training was facilitated by military members from the United States and Colombia and held at the Regional Center on Counter Transnational Organized Crime Training (CRACCT, per its Spanish acronym) in Ilopango, San Salvador. The “Tactical Training” course was attended by 100 Salvadoran troops and taught by 40 members of Task Force Gunslingers, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Arkansas Army National Guard. The “Planning for and Managing Counter Drug Trafficking” course, which was attended by 30 Salvadoran troops, was taught by 11 instructors from Colombian Army Special Forces and the Colombian Police Anti-Narcotics Directorate. “Drug trafficking is a threat which has its origin in South American countries and is currently affecting the Central American region,” FAES Colonel Rafael Antonio Díaz Olano, the CRACCT director, told Diálogo. “The training programs give us the opportunity to deepen the bonds of cooperation between the three countries’ armed forces against illegal transnational organizations in the region.” Diversification of training “With this training, we are able to raise the operational skill level of each of the participants to fight the enemy,” Salvadoran Army Corporal Manuel Enrique López, a participant in the “Planning for and Managing Counter Drug Trafficking” course, told Diálogo. The course was attended by Salvadoran military members from commands that support internal security work, as part of the extraordinary combat measures against crime and delinquency. “The Tactical Training course is multifaceted because it helps our people engage in a new field, to have a new vision for their development, and use their skills both on the battlefield and in the field of public security,” Col. Díaz said. “The soldiers trained to be expert shooters.” The personnel also received instruction on leading troops, planning, patrolling, clearance of urban areas, first aid and search operations. Attendees conducted exercises on tactical movement in urban areas and ended with firing range practice. “The elite Colombian unit shared its broad experience on the penetration of coca-leaf cultivation areas, as well as techniques on how to detect, infiltrate and neutralize these crops,” Col. Díaz added. Welcome cooperation “Since 2013, Central American maras and gangs have become very active in drug-trafficking structures, from transporting drugs to money laundering,” José Misael Rivas Soriano, a Salvadoran security analyst, told Diálogo. “These emboldened criminals have evolved from being a simple group to a structure that has a base, hierarchy, territory, and leadership. Currently, among the ranks of Central American maras, there are some university graduates,” he said. Between June 2016 and May 2017, FAES has dealt some heavy blows to drug traffickers, seizing more than 7,600 kilograms of cocaine. It also supported the National Police in joint anti-crime actions. For that purpose, 13,915 military troops were deployed, according to a press release from the Ministry of National Defense. Meanwhile, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of El Salvador indicated in its June 2017 report that 163 maras and gang structures had been dismantled. “The U.S. training always shows how to fight operationally and perform intelligence gathering,” said Rivas. He added that international cooperation with the United States is “welcomed” so that “Salvadoran authorities can fulfill their established objective.” Our two cents against crime Founded in 2014, CRACCT develops educational and training activities geared toward the fight against current and emerging threats that endanger regional and international peace and security. Since its inception, the center has taught military members from within and outside of El Salvador, as well as various civilian components. “On the basis of the needs raised by the military authorities of El Salvador, the U.S. Army has cooperated with CRACCT for the past two years through instruction on how to strengthen the training and increase the troops’ response capacity,” Col. Díaz said. Within the framework of the Central American Armed Forces Conference, this training center develops international seminars so that countries of the region can combine efforts in the fight against the emerging threats that affect them. The “Regional Seminar Against Transnational Crime” will be held in October. CRACCT is working to establish its reputation as a world-renowned training center in the fight against drug trafficking. “We want to add our two cents to counteract this scourge, which has no borders,” Col. Díaz said. “Being at the forefront is the key to preventing our young people and our society from being taken in by these tentacles, and to advance our objectives as a nation,” he concluded.