In early September, officers of the Colombian Armed Forces’ General Rafael Reyes Prieto War College (ESDEGUE, in Spanish) visited Guatemala as part of their international educational tour. During their stay, Colombian officers exchanged experiences with students of the Guatemalan Army Higher Education Command (COSEDE, in Spanish), based in Guatemala City.
The objective of the visit, September 3-7, was to learn about the Central American country’s political, economic, sociocultural, and military aspects. The group also sought to exchange knowledge with their Guatemalan counterparts on border security, the fight against organized crime, and illegal trafficking. The meeting also strengthened bonds of friendship between the Guatemalan Army and the Colombian Armed Forces.
“We call these geostrategic studies’ visits, where countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, the United States, Brazil, Colombia, and Guatemala make trips every year to strengthen the knowledge about our military educational systems,” Guatemalan Army Colonel Francis Rossito, director of COSEDE’s General Staff Command course, told Diálogo. “The courses are important in all armed forces, because they are academic requirements that need to be met to obtain higher ranks in the institutions.”
Peace in Guatemala
The Colombian delegation of 27 officers— students of ESDEGUE’s General Staff course—led by Colombian Army Brigadier General César Augusto Parra León, commander of the Army’s Sixth Division, took part in workshops and training with students of COSEDE’s General Staff Command course. Among the topics addressed, Col. Rossito said, three stood out: the Guatemalan peace process, the fight against narcotrafficking and other crimes, and cyber warfare.
Guatemalan Congressman Manuel Conde Orellana delivered a lecture about the perspectives of civil society and the peace process in Guatemala. Conde talked about the decades of confrontation with armed groups in the country and analyzed the events that enabled peace negotiations, signed in late 1996.
“The process Colombians are going through right now is very similar to what we experienced. […] We passed along all our experience in peace processes,” Col. Rossito said. “We shared our situation not only at the political-strategic level, but also at the strategic-operational level, and also showed them how we turned our counterinsurgency war doctrine into a different doctrine to start comprehensive cooperation operations and support civil security forces.”
Colombian students also learned about the Guatemalan Army’s internal methods of adaptation after the peace accords and their progress over two decades. Colombian Army Colonel Robinson Arango, military attaché at the Colombian Embassy in Guatemala, told Diálogo that the information was very well received.
“Guatemala has 20 years of experience with peace processes, and we’re just getting started with this,” Col. Arango said. “So we are seeing in this country what we can do and what we cannot do. Successes and errors are very valuable, because we are learning all this so we know what we need to improve in the Colombian Army.”
Guatemalan officers learned about the experiences of their Colombian counterparts in the fight against narcotrafficking and their operations to dismantle criminal gangs. The Central American students were also briefed about methods military institutions use to identify and destroy drug labs, eradicate illicit crops, and substitute them for legal ones.
The Colombian delegation also shared their knowledge about cybersecurity and cyberdefense, detailing the work their institutions carry out, such as the mission of the Military Forces Joint Cyber Command, devoted to defending national interests. Guatemala launched its national cybersecurity strategy in July 2018.
With passion and discipline
The Colombian officers seized the opportunity to visit the Special Forces Brigade at the North Command Air Base in Petén department. During the visit, officers learned about the Guatemalan elite forces’ training.
“Being in Guatemala was a great experience,” Col. Arango said. “We are impressed by the discipline, dedication, and passion with which they train.”
The Colombian delegation concluded its stay in Guatemala with a trip to Guatemala City’s historical center. The group continued to Ecuador as part of its international tour.