Finding ways to confront global challenges common to virtually every country in the Southern Hemisphere was the main objective of the 2017 South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC). The annual event, co-hosted this year by the Peruvian Armed Forces and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), was held in Lima, the capital of Peru, from August 22nd to 24th.
“Threat networks, whether in the form of transnational organized crime, transregional terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups, are predominant throughout the region, and many of them have the world at their fingertips, meaning, they reach far beyond Latin America and the Caribbean,” said U.S. Navy Admiral Kurt Tidd, SOUTHCOM commander. “The activities carried out by U.S. Southern Command support the various operations executed by members of the law enforcement community to dismantle, weaken, or in some way, disrupt these criminal networks that operate within our area of responsibility,” he added during the opening ceremony.
Violence and corruption
“These groups escalate violence and spread corruption, minimizing the effectiveness of each country’s governance, and signify a real threat to stability in the region,” stated Navy Admiral José Paredes, chief of Defense of the Peruvian Armed Forces.
For his part, Peruvian Minister of Defense Jorge Nieto agreed. He told the audience he is working on establishing the Emergency Military Unit (UME, per its Spanish acronym), in order to coordinate the country’s military response to natural disasters, particularly the meteorological phenomenon known as El Niño Costero, which has caused floods, landslides, and other natural disasters throughout the country.
Transregional and transnational threats
Participating partner nations Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States participated in three round-table events. Colombian Army General Juan Carlos Salazar Salazar, the commander of the Colombian Military Forces Joint Command, moderated the first round table, titled “Illuminating Transregional and Transnational Threat Networks.” “It’s important to remember that the armed forces aren’t there just to complement the activities of each nation’s national police,” he said.
Brazilian Air Force Major General Ricardo Reis Tavares, moderated the second panel of discussions, which focused on cyber defense strategies in several countries to combat this type of threats. “In Brazil alone, in the last two years, there has been a 270 percent increase in the number of cyber-attacks. It is still a very new space, without limits, and whose vulnerabilities should be dealt with,” he said, adding that these include crime, terrorism, espionage, and hacking.
The third round table addressed the armed forces’ support for humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations. “I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the help provided by our South American brothers and sisters, as well as the United States, through SOUTHCOM, while our population faces such difficult times,” said Adm. Paredes.
“In the time we have spent together, we have engaged in stimulating discussions focused on truly global issues. Challenges like illicit networks, cyber security, and humanitarian crises aren’t confined to one location or one particular space. They affect so many countries, regions and hemispheres, and by working together we can defeat this common enemy,” concluded Adm. Tidd.
For the first time since the inception of SOUTHDEC in 2010, this year’s edition celebrated a concomitant Senior Enlisted Leaders conference. Noncommissioned officer development is an ongoing effort undertaken by regional militaries in order to professionalize and increase the operational readiness of their NCO corps. SOUTHDEC 2018 will take place in Argentina.