Shielded Against Drug Trafficking
By Dialogo January 01, 2013IF WE DON'T LEARN FROM WHAT HAPPENED IN COLOMBIA AND ACT ACCORDINGLY NOT ONLY AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL BUT ALSO REGIONAL AND WHY NOT, EVEN GLOBALLY, WE WILL LEAVE OUR GRANDCHILDREN WITH QUITE A CRAPPY WORLD, IT WILL BE WORSE THAN THE ONE WE GOT FROM OUR PARENTS AFTER THE END OF WWII - sincerely
After his participation in the IV South American Defense Conference from July
24 to 26, 2012, in Bogotá, Colombia, Lieutenant General Jorge Peña Cobeña, chief of
the Joint Command of the Armed Forces of Ecuador, talked with Diálogo. He stressed
that interagency cooperation at national, regional and hemispheric levels is
essential to humanitarian missions and the fight against drug trafficking and
transnational organized crime.
Diálogo: Lieutenant General Peña Cobeña, what is the role of Ecuador’s
Armed Forces in humanitarian assistance and relief efforts in case of natural
Lieutenant General Jorge Peña Cobeña: In Ecuador, the national
secretary of risk assessment is in charge of preventing and dealing with natural
disasters. Obviously, there is close coordination with the Armed Forces, based on
already established planning and protocols developed with this office, so that in
case of disaster, we can act immediately as Armed Forces in a direct way, with our
infrastructure and support personnel genuinely committed.
Diálogo: What are your thoughts about having a regional institution to
coordinate humanitarian assistance and natural disaster relief, as well as having an
organization against drug trafficking?
Lt. Gen. Peña: We have several commitments for relief efforts
internationally. Hemispherically, we are engaged in assisting any of the countries
that need our help if a natural disaster takes place. We have sent humanitarian
assistance and teams to countries such as Chile, when the earthquake and the tsunami
happened; to El Salvador, Honduras and to Colombia when they had floods.
Furthermore, we have assisted Haiti with humanitarian assistance, in addition to our
contribution to the United Nations. We have not only sent assistance, but we have
also received it when disasters battered our territory. For example, during last
year’s floods, we were immediately assisted by countries such as Colombia, Venezuela
and Chile, based on particular agreements.
This is also the case of transnational crime and drug trafficking. In our
country, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the National Police
are in charge of dealing with these issues, which also have assistance protocols,
especially for information exchange, allowing them to have state jurisdiction to
combat these scourges.
Besides, as the Armed Forces, we are seeking to increase collaboration
efforts with the United States Southern Command, since we know that they have an
interagency organization [Joint Interagency Task Force–South] in Key West, which can
be of great help. We are eager to establish further contact with that institution
for countering drug trafficking and organized crime successfully.
Diálogo: Can you tell us about Ecuador’s bilateral or multinational
agreements in the region?
Lt. Gen. Peña: We have a structure similar to UNASUR, or the South
American Council of Defense, where there are not only several aspects of
coordination, but cooperation in regard to drug trafficking, especially on
Diálogo: In recent years, Argentina and Brazil, which were once
transit routes for drug trafficking, have become heavy drug consumers. Do you think
this could also happen in Ecuador, a country that has been shielded from drug
trafficking for several years?
Lt. Gen. Peña: Ecuador is not shielded from this problem, but what we
don’t have are coca crops. Even though there are few hectares that are controlled
and destroyed, we can confirm that our country does not manufacture narcotics.
However, we are a transit country, and we have become a nation that stores drugs for
export. Drug trafficking submersibles constructed in the country have been found,
and we detected illegal drug-related flights.
There are also large drug trafficking rings that use our country as a transit
country. We are not immune to the effects of this menace; although we are not
producers, it is a warning sign that we have become a transit country. So we are
urged to take strong action against it. On the other hand, drug use in other
countries, such as Argentina and Brazil, has increased, as in Europe and the United
States, where it is extremely high. Ecuador is not immune to this problem, because
society can be influenced by this trend. As a policy of the Ecuadorean Ministry of
Health, campaigns are carried out to avoid this problem, because there is evidence
that young people are coming into this world [of drugs].
There is an alarming amount of microtrafficking of drugs in our country, but
we have not reached the levels of other nations. We want to avoid it, so the state
is taking action to prevent this problem.