SOCSOUTH Host’s First Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program Conference
By Dialogo September 16, 2009U.S. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) hosted their initial Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) conference from 17-21 August that focused on the Caribbean and Central America regions. The purpose and theme for the conference was “Combating Illicit Transnational Activities and Creating Cooperative Solutions.” Brig. Gen. Hector E. Pagan, SOCSOUTH Commander and conference host, welcomed military and police representatives from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana and Suriname. In his opening remarks, Pagan praised their accomplishments, contributions, and willingness to cooperate to secure their borders against transnational illicit activities and efforts to enhance regional relationships. The weeklong conference highlight came as each country representative was given the opportunity to discuss topics affecting their country’s challenges in dealing with illicit transnational activities, such as narco-trafficking and gang violence. As the presentations progressed, a common theme emerged showing drug trafficking as a threat throughout the region. By the end of the partner nation briefings, one thing was clear - dealing with illicit activities is a ‘regional issue” that requires a regional solution. “Our goal was to bring regional partners together to discuss and share information on a common threat we're all facing as we struggle together to deal with illicit transnational activities," said Lt. Col. Mario Guerrier, SOCSOUTH planner and conference coordinator. “The first step was to admit we have a problem, the second step was to identify the common threads that bind us together and walk away with a resolution to help each other against a common enemy that's growing in power, influence, and brutality,” added Guerrier. According to statistics posted on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency website, just over 26,000 domestic arrests were made in 2008, a considerable drop in comparison to approximately 29,000 in 2007. However, Pagan feels successes can be achieved with continued communication and partnerships where regional nations work together to find solutions, independent of U.S. involvement. “Together we create cooperative solutions. We hope our partners continue to share information and that they continue to reach out to each other for assistance,” said Pagan.