“We gather in an atmosphere of friendship, partnership, and cooperation,” said Army Mayor General Antonio Fletcher, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), as he welcomed military, security, and government leaders from partner nations of the Western Hemisphere, who met at the Senior Seminar Leader Seminar on June 24-28 in Santiago, Chile. “Our objective is to increase collaboration and strengthen our partnerships. We maintain these partnerships to better address regional and global challenges and threats to security.”
The seminar is part of Fuerzas Comando 2019, a U.S. Southern Command-led multinational special operations exercise, conducted by SOCSOUTH and Chile as host nation. The event gathered the top military and civil authorities from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay. Spain was the European guest nation.
“This seminar helps us see how we can contribute from our positions of action and different perspectives to the defense, security, development, and interests of our countries,” said Chilean Army Brigadier General Luis Rojas, General Staff commander of Education, Doctrine, and Joint Training, at the event's inauguration. “This seminar represents an important opportunity for contact and bilateral relations between political or strategic authorities, who, in this opportunity will share among 96 representatives from 20 partner nations.”
Participants delved into regional and transnational threats, such as the fight against organized crime and related offenses, and analyzed special operations experiences, the importance of developing the noncommissioned officer corps, and the role of regional strategic communications.
“All countries in the region are concerned about transnational crime, drugs and arms trafficking, and unfortunately in our country, the fight against gangs,” said Colonel Mauricio Ernesto Sandoval Cienfuegos, commander of the Salvadoran Army Special Forces Command. “This seminar provides an opportunity to see how to make agreements about countering these issues, not individually, but jointly.”
For Commissioner Javier Rodríguez Sánchez, national director of the Panamanian Police Special Forces, everyone must share information to counter organized crime. “We need a lot of information and direct communication with the countries in the region, in addition to intelligence exchanges to find solutions to our common problems.”
Guatemalan Army Colonel Héctor González Navarro, operations director at the National Defense General Staff, supported Commissioner Rodríguez’s idea. “Information sharing is crucial to facilitate military units’ efforts, mainly that of special forces, because we conduct support operations not only to counter transnational criminal organizations, but also to help the population affected by natural disasters,” he said. He recalled the support his country received for victims of the Fuego Volcano eruption in June 2018, with humanitarian assistance, transporting the population, and the organization of shelters, among others.
Attendees committed themselves to continue professionalizing their special forces to conduct diverse missions, from defense to peacekeeping, natural disaster response, and countering transnational threats. Colombia will host the seminar’s 2020 edition.