The 2017 Caribbean Basin Coastal Surveillance and Security Summit (CABSEC), and the South American Security Summit (SAMSEC) were held in Panama City March 21st to 23rd with 136 leaders in attendance from 27 nations associated with maritime security issues looking to implement strategies to fight organized crime.
“The summit’s goals were met, but beyond that, we were able to forge bilateral relationships that will enable us to work together more effectively among nations,” said Rodrigo Cigarruista, president of CABSEC/SAMSEC in Panama and Security and Surveillance manager for the Panama Canal.
In attendance were top naval officials and representatives from the national defense and security ministries, as well as other personalities associated with the security and defense sectors of Antigua and Barbados, the Bahamas, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, and the United States. “Without a doubt, we have initiated a profound regional change in national security policies on fighting crime and violence,” said Aarón Pérez, secretary general of the Panamanian Ministry of Security, during the opening ceremony. He highlighted the importance of nations working together in the struggle against organized crime.
“It is a great honor for Panama [to be hosting] such an important forum, which truly promises to be a space for open dialogue,” said Commissioner Belsio González, general director of the Panamanian Air and Naval Service (SENAN, per its Spanish acronym). “Sharing our experiences is important because you learn about, and apply other nations’ knowledge and successes.”
CABSEC/SAMSEC attendees held joint meetings early in the morning, and later each group met in individual sessions. At the end of each day, participants broke into groups to summarize the issues discussed.
Drug trafficking, terrorism, contraband, corruption, and other types of organized crime threatening the security of the nations, regions, and residents of the planet, were among the issues analyzed during the summit. Exhibitors made various presentations in which they highlighted the importance of working in a coordinated way since organized crime networks operate without consideration to borders or regions.
“Nations need to join into a regional maritime structure so that sea power is leveraged and [we can] provide rapid responses to events happening at sea that might affect our countries. We need to close these spaces off to organized crime,” said Vice Admiral Félix Alburquerque, the Dominican Republic’s deputy minister of Defense for Naval Affairs, during his presentation on the efforts made against maritime threats in the Caribbean region in 2016.
Vice Adm. Albuquerque highlighted the need to build trust among militaries so that their coordination, especially in the area of information, can be done with maximum efficiency. “The most important thing is for us to lay the foundations for trust. We need to defend the region from these threats,” he said.
During the meeting, subject matter experts gave real-time demonstrations of state-of-the-art technologies for tracking and detection systems, radars, and technical equipment for aircraft, as well as other support services for security duties. Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from esteemed panelists who shared their analysis on issues relating to satellite network systems that enable boats to be traced and small aircraft to be detected, ensuring security in certain maritime domains. They also provided updated and detailed information on different terrorist networks and their influence on the countries of the region.
At SAMSEC General Gustavo Paz Escalante, C3 director for the Honduran Armed Forces laid out the achievements that have been made by the National Interagency Security Force operating in his country. He highlighted the importance of working jointly with other institutions to achieve better operational results. “What’s the key to success? Quality planning and operations with every operator in the justice system and with every governmental entity, to make a synchronized use of resources. In the end, a climate of peace and security is achieved,” he said.
Likewise, members of the Ecuadorean, Colombian, and Peruvian police spoke about their experiences fighting transnational crime. Participants had an opportunity to interact with panelists during a question-and-answer period to enrich the information.
During CABSEC, a panel discussion was held on lessons learned about the benefits of coordination during Hurricane Matthew. It was mainly representatives from the United States and Caribbean nations who took part in that discussion. Similarly, a panel was held on the development of current and emerging threats in the Caribbean basin.
Among the participants were representatives from U.S. Southern Command and officials from the Bahamas, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago, among others.
During the closing ceremony, Commissioner Jesús Rodríguez, chief of the Naval Group and SENAN’s event coordinator, turned over command of the summit to Major General Rocky Meade, head of the Jamaican Defence Force, Jamaica will host the 18th edition of the event in 2018. “This meeting was key to discussing issues related to the fight against transnational organized crime, which is the evil facing our world today. This effort was geared towards an exchange of information and cooperation between countries for conducting and synchronizing their joint operations,” Pérez said.
This summit was held on the west bank of the Panama Bay, quite close to the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Pacific side. Participants were also able to visit the locks along that inter-oceanic channel and tour the facilities at SENAN’s headquarters.