Each year, Special Operations Command South, a component of U.S. Southern Command, holds a military skills competition in which the special operations commandos of armies from across the Americas vie for the coveted Fuerzas Comando Cup. Parallel to that, security and defense scholars, and military leaders from the competing nations attend a seminar to analyze regional topics together.
In its 13th edition, Fuerzas Comando 2017 was held in Paraguay. While the military skills competition was underway in Vista Alegre, in the center of the country, a seminar called “Illuminating and Combating Organized Transnational and Transregional Crime Networks” was held in Asunción. Diálogo took the opportunity to speak with Air Force General Braulio Piris Rojas, commander of the Paraguayan Armed Forces.
Diálogo: What is the importance of the 2017 edition of Fuerzas Comando being held in Paraguay?
Air Force General Braulio Piris Rojas, commander of the Paraguayan Armed Forces: Traditionally, the missions of a nation’s armed forces have been based on a classical vision of destroying an opponent’s military forces and occupying enemy territory. However, in these new times we are living in, so-called “new threats” have emerged, which present a challenge for the military. These include terrorism; the production and trafficking of drugs and arms; money laundering and organized crime, all of which undoubtedly constitute a threat to the security of this hemisphere. Paraguay is not untouched by such scourges. In that context, this edition of Fuerzas Comando seeks to improve the tactics and techniques used in operational environments by improving training for Special Operations personnel. Then, there is the importance of this event being held in my country for the second time, as this demonstrates trust, which reflects on Paraguay as a nation: trust based on our socio-economic progress, the stability of our democracy, and the esteem that Paraguay enjoys in the community of nations.
Diálogo: What does this mean in terms of the bonds of friendship and fraternity between the Special Forces of partner nations, particularly with the United States?
Gen. Piris Rojas: Fuerzas Comando is an important opportunity to demonstrate to oneself, and to foreigners, the capabilities of each participant. The 2017 edition of this exercise was designed as an instrument for improving regional and multinational cooperation, supported by our mutual trust, based on a feeling of fraternal friendship, in order to more effectively confront the common threats that afflict our region. These competitions help with integration and the sharing of professional experiences between the participants, improve multinational and regional cooperation, and bolster our mutual trust. The fact that we have the United States participating, and U.S. Southern Command sponsoring this event, greatly reinforces the strong, historical bonds of friendship that unite our peoples, thus honoring our motto: “Mbarete Ñane Moiruva” (The force that unites us).
Diálogo: Eight months after assuming your position, what are your main goals and biggest challenges as commander of the Paraguayan Armed Forces?
Gen. Piris Rojas: As I have done since day one of my command, I am looking for the Paraguayan Armed Forces to be modern, highly efficient, and strengthened in their operational capacity so they can conduct combined operations using human resources which are recognized for their professionalism, capability, honor, and vocation of service, with roles that are tailored to facing new threats to the state, and that ensure actions which will enable us to orient our quest for effective and transparent management, cooperating on national development and bringing our forces closer to the people by taking on social and institutional responsibility, and actively participating in the nation’s commitments to international cooperation and national defense.
Diálogo: What are the greatest threats to Paraguayan security? What are the Armed Forces doing to counteract them?
Gen. Piris Rojas: In my opinion, the greatest threats to our security are organized criminal groups that engage in activities such as terrorism; drug and arms trafficking; kidnappings and armed robberies against state financial entities; and computer crimes that transcend borders. Within their constitutional role, our Armed Forces cooperate with other government institutions, implementing plans to use our personnel, materials, and equipment to support the agencies leading the fight against these scourges. In that sense, the Armed Forces’ High Command has the firm, sincere, and overwhelming support and political will of the Executive Branch to move forward with these plans.
Diálogo: Why is joint regional coordination and cooperation between the respective armed forces important for confronting transregional and transnational security threats?
Gen. Piris Rojas: The new global defense scene affirms that this is supported by two pillars – foreign relations and armed forces – and that the democratic system is one that offers better development opportunities for a nation, beginning with the principles of liberty, tolerance, and justice. There is no doubt that regional cooperation is indispensable for combating these transnational and transregional crimes. These threats stem from new ways of committing crimes and they require new mechanisms and new regional associations to combat them, as the criminal organizations have expanded their borders. That is why the key to defeating these transregional and transnational organizations is cooperation.
Diálogo: Paraguay has a long history of participating in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. It has done so since 2001 in six missions around the world, in particular, as part of the contingents from partner nations such as Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Why is this participation important for the country itself? And what is the importance of the relationships forged and the lessons learned from doing it as part of the contingents of sister nations?
Gen. Piris Rojas: Paraguay’s participation in Peacekeeping Operations under the Mandate of the United Nations has long been the burning desire of generations of military officers, ever since these operations were first implemented in 1948, when the Security Council approved the deployment of United Nations military observers to the Middle East. Facilitated by Argentina, that desire became a reality when, in 1998, officers from the Paraguayan Armed Forces were deployed as members of the General Staff of the Argentine Task Force in the United Nations mission in Cyprus. The joint participation of the Argentine, Brazilian, and, recently, the Uruguayan Armed Forces, that we maintain even today, has been highly positive, as the knowledge and experience acquired by our personnel on the planning and doctrine employed for these operations has given us the capacity to deploy a contingent under our own flag, which would have been undoubtedly much more difficult if we had not previously had that experience. Another positive aspect of this joint participation has been our bonds of friendship with other forces, which have a positive effect on the bilateral relations between our institutions. Following these participations, our bilateral ties and joint operations have been strengthened, and today they are more positive and more fluid.
Diálogo: Would you like to add anything else for our readers?
Gen. Piris Rojas: I would like to end by thanking U.S. Southern Command for their invitation to have Paraguay be the host of this competition for the second time, which is so important for the militaries across the Americas, and Diálogo for the opportunity to do this interview.