The Armed Forces of Colombia launched in January the National Instant Response System for Stabilization Progress (SIRIE, per its Spanish acronym) as an instability monitoring tool for the country. The system is operating nationwide with the purpose of monitoring, verifying, and analyzing factors of instability in regional security in order to adopt appropriate measures that will help improve the quality of life of the citizens.
“SIRIE was planned as a tool for building communication bridges with the civilian population, community leaders, indigenous reservations, and other organizations. They can provide valuable information on alleged factors of instability,” said Major General Juan Pablo Amaya, inspector general of the Armed Forces of Colombia.
Colombia is going through a period of significant transformation. The end of the armed conflict and the implementation of the accords established in Havana have created rapid changes that are new for everyone in the country. “The speed of these transformations demands efficient adaptations, from an institutional point of view, in order to face persistent threats and emerging threats, and to ensure that the agreements between the national government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC, per its Spanish acronym] are fully implemented,” said Maj. Gen. Amaya. “With SIRIE, we are looking to have a more complete overview and to restore trust with the population through efficient solutions.”
The system has a national call center that can be used by any citizen to report any irregular event that threatens his or her peace or safety. It relies on 13 verification teams for nationwide coverage.
Each problem is handled by the general command, which strategically checks the call. It coordinates inspections of the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Police, and Attorney General’s Office. Additionally, the Strategic Command for Transition is charged with securing the Provisional Demobilization Zones (ZVTN, per its Spanish acronym). All of these government entities have a very valuable pool of information. Each one provides solutions to problems within its specialty.
“When a call is received, the information is corroborated with government institutions and citizens who can provide details pertinent to the case. When possible, there is a military deployment to the scene of the crime to confirm the situation and to obtain a complete overview,” Colonel Daniel Ricardo Morales, deputy inspector of the General Command of the 7th Army Division, told Diálogo. “Later, an analysis is done at central command and the most efficient strategy is chosen to resolve the problem. From the time the call is received until a solution is found, there is a maximum period of 24 hours,” he added.
The SIRIE information network is quite broad. It receives data from the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, government institutions, and the community at large. All of these elements make SIRIE invulnerable to possible disinformation.
Immediate response in Chocó
The Pacific department of Chocó has Panama at its northern border, where the so-called Darién Gap — a jungle area that acts as a natural barrier — is located. On its eastern border is the western Andes mountain range. Throughout its history, these geographical conditions have made Chocó a propitious area for armed organized groups to operate in.
In March, there were deployments in the municipality of Alto Baudó, in Chocó, due to fighting between the National Liberation Army (ELN, per its Spanish acronym) and the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Because of the fighting, 500 people moved to the municipal seat of government. To get a more complete view of the problem, Gen. Amaya visited Chocó with a special team and independently met with military, police, and civil authorities.
“From all of these conversations, we obtained a truly comprehensive view of the situation. Thus it was possible to formulate a rapid analysis tailored to the circumstances. Of course, it wasn’t an in-depth investigation but rather rapid responses to a crisis moment,” Gen. Amaya said.
“In this case, an order was given to increase the operation, to move the Pacific Naval Force’s river units to the river, to control the drug-trafficking routes through military operations, to secure the population, and to move up by one day our development aid for the population. All of that on the same day,” Col. Morales said.
The rapid response of the military forces and the strengthening of the military presence made possible the liberation of eight people kidnapped by ELN, the return of people to their homes, and the re-establishment of security in the area. Gen. Amaya stated that the case of Alto Baudó is emblematic because it is a region where trust in the military has been historically low because of the influence of armed organized groups.
“Getting to this region involves a change; it means breaking the old paradigms in a population that is warned against the legitimate forces of the state. But when they see that there are quick solutions, they start to trust in lawful channels again. SIRIE is the beginning of that return of trust,” Gen. Amaya concluded.