The fight against International Organized Crime must be a regional effort
By Dialogo May 01, 2014
A Salvadoran volcano known as “El Chaparrastique,” or the San Miguel Volcano, is 2,129 meters high and located 130 km east of San Salvador. It is one of seven active volcanoes in El Salvador and last erupted on December 29, 2013.
Immediately after, the Salvadoran Army and the National Police were called to provide support for thousands of people that were in potential danger at the heels of the eruption, which released great quantities of gas and ash, causing widespread fear among the civil population.
When it comes to natural disasters, assistance is just one of the new roles of the Salvadoran Armed Forces, and it is becoming more common not only in this Central American nation, but also in other Latin American countries. To discuss this issue and other matters, Diálogo met with Major General Rafael Melara Rivera, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Salvadoran Armed Forces during the Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC), which took place on the first week of April in Guatemala City.
DIÁLOGO: What is El Salvador’s participation with regard to Operation Martillo, specifically? What did it consist of in the past and what will it be in the future?
Major General Rafael Melara Rivera: Salvadoran participation in this effort against international organized crime, as well as sharing responsibility with other countries in a regional effort, is made through the use of land, maritime, human and air resources, to operate in the three environments throughout our national territory.
DIÁLOGO: What is your main challenge in this regard and others, in relation to the Armed Forces as a whole?
Maj. Gen. Melara: The main challenge we have is the fight against international organized crime. It is not an individual fight; on the contrary, it is a common effort we would like to share and support, and would like to be capable of offering all of our capabilities, in order to minimize and reduce the impact on the interior of our country. We would also like to collaborate in the multinational efforts that are underway in this fight.
DIÁLOGO: We see that the armed forces in the region are getting more and more involved in the fight against drug trafficking or asymmetrical threats; the new challenges. What is the Salvadoran Armed Forces stand on this new position regarding the armed forces in the region?
Maj. Gen. Melara: In the Salvadoran Armed Forces, we are aware of the fact that threats will always be either internal or external. There are classic, traditional ones. But in regards to emerging threats, we are a support agent against them, an effort that contributes to helping public forces, such as the National Civil Police and the Attorney General, since they devote a massive effort to combat these threats. However, our main role is to accomplish goals and support this entire effort to reduce threats with the available resources, in order to improve security in our country.
DIÁLOGO: During the Salvadoran presentation here at CENTSEC, it was said that more resources should be generated and brought to the border. Why, General?
Maj. Gen. Melara: Our efforts on the border must be more solid and blunt to avoid having a fragile, porous border. We need resources to carry out relevant surveillance on land, air, and maritime borders. If we, as a country, contribute to reducing drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and human trafficking, or provide an opportunity for these crimes to take place, it will help us provide for a better security environment not only for our country, but also for our neighbors.
DIÁLOGO: How do you see the information and intelligence sharing between El Salvador and other countries in the region, as well as the United States?
Maj. Gen. Melara: We have a good exchange of information in the military that is very effective. There are tools and resources available for this purpose. As I was saying, we have made great strides. As a country, we realize that sharing information must be more effective and more expedient. Information sharing bureaucracy should be diminished, so that the resources we use to conduct the mission are effective. Moreover, [we expect that] when information us shared in a timely manner, we are able to better utilize the resources available and all the nations involved can be certain that the information is being used to reduce threats.
DIÁLOGO: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Maj. Gen. Melara: I would just like to mention that with the Central American Security Conference, a great continental effort is being undertaken. We know that in being a Central American country, we are contributors. However, when the threats are either regional or transnational, we must conduct common efforts, which is what we have been discussing; information sharing where the strategic level of decision making may be enforced and then address these issues properly. I think these aspects will contribute enormously to achieve these efforts that we have as a hemisphere, and then we will be able to confront these threats jointly.
Fighting Transnational Organized Crime means first of all that forces involved (Armed Forces or National Police) in this task be properly armored against the main strength of these illicit organizations: CORRUPTION. Otherwise, the fight would be in vain.