General Rodolfo Pereyra took over as head of the Uruguayan Defense General Staff (ESMADE) in April 2022. Since then, his focus has been on consolidating strategic and organizational guidelines to chart a new course for ESMADE.
A graduate of the Aeronautic Military School in December 1987 as a Second Lieutenant and with 35 years of military career, Gen. Pereyra has held several leadership positions, such as national director of Civil Aviation and Aeronautical Infrastructure, and chief of Staff of the Air Force.
Pereyra spoke with Diálogo about his priorities and actions against organized crime, among other topics.
Diálogo: What is your priority as head of ESMADE?
General Rodolfo Pereyra, chief of the Uruguayan Defense General Staff: In complying with the minister of Defense’s orders regarding the need to strengthen and posture ESMADE, my priority focused on establishing bases for the construction and development of the organization and administrative and operational functioning, which is incumbent by law on the Defense General Staff, as an advisory body to the Armed Forces’ Superior Command and, in particular, of the Ministry of Defense in matters of planning and coordinating the activities of the forces, as well as determining the logistical needs, and the training and planning for joint operability. We also mustn’t forget the purely operational part, since it depends on the ESMADE chief, the joint or combined joint operations’ General Command, and the Joint Cyber Defense Command.
This has been the backbone of our work, organizational and operational regulations, leadership development, creation of joint commands, which require the approval by decree of the executive power, and which has allowed us to date to have 90 percent of the legislation approved by the Ministry of Defense. What I’ve said so far was carried out without detriment to the fulfillment of so many other tasks entrusted to ESMADE by the Minister of Defense.
Diálogo: How do the Army, Navy, and Air Force military personnel coordinate their actions to carry out border patrols as part of Operation Secure Border?
Gen. Pereyra: So far, we’ve carried out the coordination, according to the circumstances, from meetings to coordinate activities or update regulations and procedures with the different agencies we support, the issuance of operational plans, to being present on site where operational activities are carried out. What is missing is an operational command that would allow for the joint management of the operation, which we intend to address with the Joint Operations Command.
Diálogo: Uruguay has dealt hard blows to narcotrafficking and drug dealing. How do the Armed Forces cooperate in this fight?
Gen. Pereyra: We act within the framework of Law No. 19.677 “Authorization for the Armed Forces to carry out surveillance and support tasks for agencies with jurisdiction in border areas” and its Regulatory Decree, which defines the 20-kilometer strip of national territory as a border area. In this zone, the Armed Forces carry out patrols on land, river, and air space, identify persons and vehicles and detain people caught in the act, with immediate intervention from the competent prosecutor. This task has given the country a new, effective tool to mitigate the crimes that occur in border areas, such as narcotrafficking and drug dealing, which are among the many crimes detected, along with goods and weapons smuggling, illegal entry of persons into the country, livestock theft, transfer of cargo in violation of health regulations, illegal hunting and fishing, and illegal carrying of firearms.
Diálogo: What progress has been made in the professionalization of the Armed Forces’ noncommissioned officers (NCOs)?
Gen. Pereyra: With the exception of specialized technical personnel, who require a previous level of studies to serve in the Armed Forces, which makes it possible to advance their knowledge and apply for promotions or reach the rank of officer; for the rest of the personnel, I am referring to those dedicated to general services, the regulations only require primary education to fill vacancies in the first rank and if their desire and performance allow them to continue in the Forces, before applying for promotion, they must have completed basic education, and if their intention is to be an officer, they must, among other requirements, graduate with a bachelor’s degree. What I’ve expressed demonstrates the great interest of the Armed Forces in the intellectual development of its members, a process that aims to have among its ranks increasingly more professional NCOs.
Diálogo: What is the importance of the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) that the Uruguayan Armed Forces carry out with their U.S. counterparts?
Gen. Pereyra: What better opportunity could the Uruguayan Armed Forces have to increase their knowledge, assimilate new ways of planning, learn new tactics and procedures, as well as strengthen ties of friendship, when the joint combined training is carried out with a force where the effectiveness of its capabilities has been successfully tested in the field.
Diálogo: Why is it important for Uruguay to participate in United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping missions?
Gen. Pereyra: The principles of our country’s foreign policy are non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, respect for the self-determination of peoples, and the peaceful settlement of disputes. As such, Uruguay is strongly committed to peace and stability in the world, which is materialized through our presence in U.N. peacekeeping missions. We are the 18th country in the world to contribute troops and the second with respect to population/forces engaged ratio. Our peacekeeping forces enjoy good international recognition, largely due to the professionalism demonstrated in each mission and to the characteristics of our people — Uruguayans are supportive people and quickly empathize with the local populations.
Diálogo: What progress is the Uruguayan Navy making in its fleet modernization plan with the transfer of three Protector-class river patrol vessels from the U.S. Coast Guard?
Gen. Pereyra: Our National Navy is going through a critical moment regarding its equipment, most of it is out of service due to length of service, spare parts not being available, and the costs of repairs and maintenance being very high. The inclusion of new fluvial and oceanic units is imperative. The three Protector-class ships arrive at the right time to cover part of these needs: the river patrol capabilities required for surveillance tasks in the border area.
Diálogo: What steps are the Uruguayan Armed Forces taking with the United States to coordinate efforts against cyberthreats?
Gen. Pereyra: With U.S. Southern Command, the Department of Defense, the Connecticut National Guard, and U.S. government agencies such as CISA [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency], we carry out joint exercises with national entities, such as AGESIC [Agency for Electronic Government and the Information and Knowledge Society], the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to exchange experiences, as well as cybersecurity and cyberdefense knowledge.