SOUTHCOM and the Guatemalan Army Bring Medical Care to Remote Communities
By Manuel Ordóñez/Diálogo October 28, 2016At least 2,000 people from the small towns of Cruzadero and Bethel, located in the Northern Guatemalan department of Petén, benefited from a medical-outreach day held by the Guatemalan Army in conjunction with the United States Army, through Southern Command. Doctors from these forces held consultations on September 16, 17 and 18 and October 7, 8 and 9 providing care in the areas of dentistry, otolaryngology, gynecology, nutrition, ophthalmology and general medicine. According to Lieutenant Colonel Karen Pérez, spokesperson for the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense, personnel from the Secretariat of Social Works of the President's Wife and the National Cancer Institute also participated in the medical-outreach days. The medical care was organized in conjunction with the departmental government, the Ministry of Public Health and the “Luis García León” 1st Infantry Brigade, which is based in the municipality of Santa Elena, also in the department of Petén. Major Daniel Monroy, United States Army Section Chief of the Office of Security Cooperation at the United States Embassy in Guatemala, said that these types of missions are carried out in various regions around the country. "In this medical-outreach day, we collaborated by bringing medications and equipment, but this was a Guatemalan Army effort," said Maj. Monroy. In addition to providing the medications that were administered to the population, the United States Army, through Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B), also carried out dental procedures and pediatric consultations. Approximately 66 people participated in setting up the mobile clinics. Among them were doctors from the different specializations and technicians from the day's participating institutions. According to sources from JTF-B, the goal of this humanitarian mission is to provide assistance to the population and also to foster trust and create new ties between the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the civilian population. "One of the objectives is for the population to be able to see that the Guatemalan State is trying to support the Guatemalan population and these communities that are outside of the State's reach," said Maj. Monroy to Diálogo. At the same time, while providing services to the civilian population, the Guatemalan Armed Forces also had the goal of preventing and interrupting illicit smuggling across the land border between Belize and Guatemala. JTF-B is also seeking to get to know the terrain in order to establish an enduring relationship with locals and to support operations in the Petén area in the future. “The consultations were held in these towns because of their vulnerability and also because of the high poverty rate in the area,” reported the Guatemalan Army. “All of the assistance provided by the authorities to the people based in these areas was very positive because they worked as a team and benefited a lot of people,” said Ervel Sandoval, spokesperson for the governor of Petén. According to Sandoval, the communities that were served are in an area adjacent to the border between Guatemala and Belize, which is far from the central part of the department. For the most part, its residents are farmers, who cultivate corn, beans, and squash. The illnesses diagnosed among the patients included severe cases of the common cold and diarrhea. These are common conditions, but they could prove fatal because of how far the hospitals are located.