Regional Cooperation in Central America to Address Natural and Human Emergencies

Regional Cooperation in Central America to Address Natural and Human Emergencies

By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo
June 29, 2021

“The Americas are a top priority for us and the U.S. government […]. We want to continue to be your most trusted partner. We are so interconnected — geographically, historically, and culturally,” U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), told defense ministers, chiefs of Staff, and other participants at the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC) 2021, in Panama City, June 22-23. “But we are also connected by the common threats we face, and we must work together to keep our region — our home — safe […]. CENTSEC is an opportunity for us to sync up, share best practices and lessons learned, and enhance interoperability.”

SOUTHCOM sponsored the conference, while Panama’s Ministry of Public Security co-hosted the event.

Juan Manuel Pino Forero, Panamanian minister of Public Security (left), Daniel Erikson, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere, and U.S. Navy Admiral S. Faller, SOUTHCOM commander, during the opening ceremony of the Central American Security Conference 2021. (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Panama)

“We are at CENTSEC to address issues of common interest, which enable us to strengthen ties of camaraderie and brotherhood to counter the various threats, concerns, and challenges in terms of security and natural disasters that constantly haunt us,” Panamanian Minister of Public Security Juan Manuel Pino Forero said. “This regional forum on hemispheric security becomes the meeting point par excellence that enables us to develop common strategies in a comprehensive way to combat organized crime in its different forms, establish regional policies and protocols for natural disaster response, and promote integration in the search for unified intervention mechanisms, so as to jointly address different situations and problems that afflict us in a similar way.”

Military leaders from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and the United States discussed the importance of humanitarian assistance programs, collaboration in the face of natural disasters, irregular migration, and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, France, and the United Kingdom, were observer countries.

Experts from the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program joined the event.

“An integrated Central America enables us to be stronger to react to critical natural disaster events and to promote the population’s common good,” said Brigadier General Miguel Ángel Rivas Bonilla, deputy head of the Salvadoran Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he emphasized regional solidarity to combat common threats and respond to natural and human disasters.

Developing a regional disaster logistics plan that will go hand in hand with public security strategies, improving preparedness and capabilities to face new emerging challenges, and having a fluid exchange of information during a crisis were some of the outcomes of CENTSEC 2021.