Diálogo met with Colonel Mario Adalberto Figueroa Cárcamo, chief of the Salvadoran Army General Staff (EMGE, in Spanish), during a visit to EMGE’s headquarters in San Salvador. Col. Figueroa talked about his challenges, interagency work, and the Army’s role in citizen security.
Diálogo: What’s the most important challenge as commander of the Salvadoran Army?
Colonel Mario Adalberto Figueroa Cárcamo, chief of the Salvadoran Army General Staff: The Army accounts for 80 percent of the Salvadoran Armed Force (FAES, in Spanish), so I think our challenges focus on raising the level of troops’ operational readiness through individual and collective training, supporting public security, and improving and obtaining technical equipment to carry out different activities.
Diálogo: What kind of interagency work does the Army conduct through the General Staff?
Col. Figueroa: The current approach is the Territorial Control Plan, with the participation of FAES, the National Civil Police (PNC, in Spanish), the Office of the Attorney General, and the Ministry of Justice, to support public security and disrupt gangs’ criminal activities. We also coordinate with different institutions to assist with natural disasters such as wildfires, earthquakes, etc.
Diálogo: How does the Army support the actions of the Territorial Control Plan?
Col. Figueroa: Eighty percent of our tasks focus on supporting the plan in different fronts. For example, we have Plan Armageddon, where our service members work with PNC members in the 25 municipalities with the highest crime and murder rates, according to the national territory plan. Patrol teams are made up of four elements [three soldiers and a PNC], and we have officers and noncommissioned officers who participate in different joint operations.
Our Special Counter-terrorism Command, specialized in the fight against gangs and narcotrafficking, supports the plan through joint operations with the PNC aimed at specific targets with arrest warrants or those on the most wanted criminals list. The plan has yielded effective results, as the population feels protected and safer, murder rates have dropped, and gang-dominated territories have been recovered.
Diálogo: Is it possible that gang members, targeted by Territorial Control Plan operations, might flee the country?
Col. Figueroa: Some gang members and criminals have fled the country because of the pressure from military forces and the PNC, and they do it through blind spots on the land border. However, we have the Sumpul Command that monitors unauthorized border crossings to reduce and prevent the trafficking of drugs, arms, and illegal goods.
Diálogo: In which United Nations peace missions is the Army participating?
Col. Figueroa We have about 337 elements in peacekeeping missions. We have the UNIFIL Contingent deployed in Lebanon, the Torogoz Contingent and the Airfield Unit with Land Assistance in Mali, and the Helicopter Air Unit preparing to deploy for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Diálogo: In what way do information operations help to fulfill different Army missions?
Col. Figueroa Information operations help us get closer to the civil population. This approach creates trust through civil-military relations, because we show the people the actions we perform for their benefit, and with the help of the U.S. military we build schools, roads, water wells, etc.
We also use social media to get closer to the communities and let them know about our activities.