SOUTHCOM, Partners Fight Transnational Crime

SOUTHCOM, Partners Fight Transnational Crime

By Dialogo
October 17, 2011

The military’s work with partners in South and Central America and the Caribbean have brought a range of gains in the area from close military cooperation to supporting the region’s fight against organized crime, the commander of U.S. Southern Command said in Washington D.C.

In an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser said SOUTHCOM’s job is working with the nation’s military partners and defending U.S. approaches from the south.

And though he doesn’t see a traditional threat to the United States from any part of Central and South America or the Caribbean, the general said, a threat does exist.

“I do see a nontraditional threat, and that is transnational organized crime,” he explained. “It’s pervasive throughout the region, [but has] a larger impact right now in Central America.”

The threat has a destabilizing impact on many countries, the general said, and includes trafficking in drugs, weapons and people; money laundering and bulk cash transfers; and many other avenues of illicit trade.

Such criminal organizations, he said, have a corrosive impact on countries whose systems of government and institutions may be weak and whose populations are poor.

“It’s a concern that will continue to manifest itself for a long time,” Fraser added, “and it’s one that we just need to continue to work on,” along with partners in the region.

SOUTHCOM, based in Miami, is one of the Defense Department’s nine unified combatant commands, providing contingency planning, operations and security cooperation for Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

The command oversees the force protection of U.S. military resources in the region and is responsible for ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal.

SOUTHCOM’s more than 1,200 military and civilian personnel represent the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and other federal agencies.

Because organized crime is a focus of law enforcement and not military forces, the general added, SOUTHCOM has a supporting role in the fight.

Part of the criminal activity involves drug production and transport in and out of the region, he explained.

From law enforcement — primarily from the host nation, but supported by U.S. agencies — “we get indications of where those organizations are moving,” Fraser said.

“We’ll find [the criminals], watch them as they move through the maritime environment, and then coordinate with other law enforcement capacity or host nation capacity that can intercept, detain and take those individuals to prosecution and take care of the drugs,” he said.

SOUTHCOM also helps to support partner militaries, Fraser said, improving their capacity to support the internal requirements of nations in the region.

“It’s very much an interagency and an international approach, and there is no one solution, there is no silver bullet,” the general said. “We have to address each part.”