Less than three weeks after her appointment as commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson made her first official visit to Colombia, November 16-18, where she met with military leaders to strengthen the strategic relationship in security and defense matters between both countries.
On November 17, Gen. Richardson met with Colombian Minister of Defense Diego Molano, with General Luis Fernando Navarro Jiménez, commander of the Colombian Military Forces, accompanying him.
During the meeting, Molano highlighted the close relationship between Colombia and SOUTHCOM, which have joined forces in the fight against narcotrafficking and other crimes that threaten the security of the hemisphere, the Colombian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
At a press conference, Molano said that they discussed three goals: “how to strengthen efforts to fight narcotrafficking, how to guarantee the Military Forces’ strengthening, and how to support the development of security and peace objectives for the Latin American and Caribbean region.”
The meeting also unveiled the priorities of the defense sector, in accordance to the strategic work of the Military Forces and the cooperation of the U.S. government: strategic intelligence support, cyber defense, gender equality, as well as climate change and environmental protection, the Colombian Ministry of Defense said in the statement.
“The relationship of cooperation with Southern Command is a relationship over many years between strategic partners, to guarantee security and joint work between the U.S. military and the Colombian Armed Forces,” Molano said.
On November 18, according to a SOUTHCOM statement, Gen. Richardson visited the Inclusive Rehabilitation Center, a military rehabilitation facility in Bogotá that assists wounded Colombian warriors. That same day, the commander visited the Tolemaida Military Fort to better understand how Colombian service members work to fight transnational criminal organizations and illicit trafficking. The SOUTHCOM delegation also met with members of the Colombian Military Forces to discuss the implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security initiative and noncommissioned officers’ development.
This was Gen. Richardson’s first official trip abroad, following her appointment as SOUTHCOM commander on October 29, 2021, becoming the first woman to take that role and succeeding U.S. Navy Admiral Craig. S. Faller.
“Colombia is our main partner in the region; we hope to be able to consolidate our strategic relationship to strengthen security in the hemisphere,” Gen. Richardson said, according to the Colombian Ministry of Defense.