Surveillance, search, and rescue at sea are the daily duties of the Haitian Coast Guard. Haitian Police Commissioner Joseph Jean-Mary Wagnac, director of the Coast Guard, keeps busy to protect the island’s 1,535-kilometer coastline from drug trafficking, contraband, human smuggling, and other transnational illegal activities at sea.
Commissioner Wagnac participated at the 5th Caribbean Region Information Operations Council (CRIOC) in Kingston, Jamaica, from March 26-29, 2018. He was one of the Caribbean representatives at the event to foster regional collaboration, strengthen relationships, increase Information Operations (IO) capabilities to counter common threats affecting the region, and support coordinated hurricane-relief operations. Commissioner Wagnac spoke with Diálogo about his participation at CRIOC, IO, and regional security challenges among other topics.
Diálogo: What is the importance of Haiti’s participation at the 5th CRIOC conference in Jamaica?
Haitian Police Commissioner Joseph Jean-Mary Wagnac, director of the Coast Guard: Information Operations are very important for the Coast Guard. Last year, I couldn’t attend, but I’m so glad to be here now.
Diálogo: What does Haiti expect to achieve with its participation at this event?
Commissioner Wagnac: Sharing information amongst partner nations is very important for our operations. Most of the time we obtain relevant information from partner nations. If we share information, it can make our job easier. We want to continue sharing information in real time.
Diálogo: What are Haiti’s most important security challenges?
Commissioner Wagnac: We have a lot of challenges because we have a big coast to protect and we don’t have enough capacity to do the job. Combating drug trafficking and fighting illegal immigration and contraband are the most important security challenges we are facing today. Even though we only have a few boats and our capacity is minimal, we patrol every day, and do the best we can. We are catching a lot of people and are fighting illegal trafficking and merchandise.
Diálogo: Is terrorism a security threat for Haiti?
Commissioner Wagnac: No. Until now, we haven’t had this kind of security threat, but we need to be prepared.
Diálogo: Why is collaboration, partnership, and exchange among partner nations, including the United States, so important in achieving a common IO criteria to fight transnational organized crime?
Commissioner Wagnac: If we don’t have the people to help, we won’t get the job done. It’s important to have good relationships and good communication with our partners outside of the country. If I track and follow a boat, keep the information, and don’t share it with neighboring countries, the criminals are going to do whatever they want at sea. If we share information, I can call my partners to let them know about the threat.
We have a special collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Bahamas Coast Guard, and the Jamaican Coast Guard, amongst others in the region, as we share information, even by WhatsApp, email, etc. Our relationship with the U.S. is continuous. I have a representative from U.S. Coast Guard, District 7 based in Haiti, who is in touch with me 24/7, and we share information and training. We have at least 20-30 people training every year in different institutions in the United States to help our staff acquire new capabilities. In the past, we have worked a lot with Colombia also. We are open to working with countries in the region fighting transnational organized crime.
Diálogo: Why is it important for military forces to build strong relationships and respond jointly to natural disasters?
Commissioner Wagnac: Natural disasters are an important topic for us as we are in a country affected permanently with them. Partner nations working together help to prepare and support us when natural disasters occur.
Diálogo: Is IO a new topic at the Haitian Coast Guard?
Commissioner Wagnac: It isn’t new. However, this is our first participation in CRIOC. It’s much better to have CRIOC help us see how we can share information and solve problems together. Information is power, and CRIOC is connecting countries in the region working together in terms of information sharing and information campaigns.
Diálogo: What progress has the Haitian Coast Guard made on gender integration?
Commissioner Wagnac: We are a small coast guard, as we are a little more than 200 people. Approximately 13 percent of our personal are women, and they do a variety of jobs such as mechanics and many other support duties.
Diálogo: What message do you want to send each of the countries participating in the 2018 event?
Commissioner Wagnac: We have to be as one team to do the best job for the security of our region. We need to work more closely and be ready to help each other, and information sharing plays a major role. Sharing information is the single most important communication if you want the job to be done right.