U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), concluded his first trip to Central America since assuming command in November 2018. Adm. Faller visited the countries of the Northern Triangle, where he met with Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran leaders, and stopped by several military sites, January 21-25.
The objective of his visit was to reaffirm the continuous commitment of the United States in support of partner nations and their security forces. The visit also enabled officials to address different regional security cooperation issues, and coordinate operations to counter narcotrafficking and related crimes.
“Honduras and its immediate neighbors, Guatemala and El Salvador, are among the first partners I will visit,” said Adm. Faller during a press conference in Honduras. “One of my first priorities was to travel to the region to meet with key partners, listen to their concerns, understand their perspectives regarding security challenges, and hear their ideas on how we can effectively work together to address those challenges.”
Enduring friendship with Honduras
During his first stop, in Honduras, Adm. Faller met with Honduran Minister of Defense Fredy Santiago Díaz and Army Major General René Orlando Ponce Fonseca, chairman of the Honduran Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also met with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández at the government palace. During his stay, he visited the National Police Special Forces Directorate in Tegucigalpa, whose units fight organized crime. He also spent time with SOUTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base.
Faller not only praised both countries’ enduring friendship and the achievements of Honduran security forces, but also their collaboration during the Enduring Promise 2018 mission aboard hospital ship USNS Comfort, an 11-week-long humanitarian assistance mission that concluded in Honduras. The ship also made stops in Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. During Adm. Faller’s visit, the Honduran military leadership announced that the country would host the SOUTHCOM-sponsored Central American Security Conference 2019, in May.
“At SOUTHCOM, we are confident we can advance together toward countering those challenges,” said Adm. Faller. “We have witnessed the unwavering dedication and important contributions of our security partners in Honduras, and more importantly, we’ve witnessed the professionalism with which the Honduran military conducts operations and continues to work toward a more secure nation for the citizens it serves.”
Close collaboration with Guatemala
In Guatemala, Adm. Faller met with Army Major General Luis Miguel Ralda Moreno, Guatemalan minister of defense, and other national security leaders to address narcotrafficking, disaster response, and human rights, among other issues. In addition, he visited Huehuetenango department to meet with Interagency Task Force Tecún Umán, which safeguards the border with Mexico.
“We dealt with general issues, the fight against narcotrafficking, immigration, humanitarian disaster assistance, and combined training and exercises to improve force capabilities,” Maj. Gen. Ralda told Diálogo. “Adm. Faller came in person to see the situation in Guatemala. He came to see that Guatemalans are good, peaceful people, and that the Army is an institution devoted to serving Guatemalans, an institution that the people recognize and appreciate.”
As part of the efforts to counter organized crime, SOUTHCOM’s commander visited the Guatemalan Army’s Naval Special Force Command. This unit executes maritime drug interdiction and rescue operations.
“He visited to acknowledge our heroes who work day after day at sea to prevent the transfer of drugs and arms to the north or south, and to see the rather precarious conditions they encounter at sea,” said Maj. Gen. Ralda. “It was a first approach, and he said he is fully prepared to cooperate.”
Solid commitment to El Salvador
Adm. Faller ended his trip in El Salvador, where he exchanged knowledge and ideas with Minister of Defense David Munguía Payés and other members of the Salvadoran Armed Force. He concluded his weeklong visit with an affirmation of the trust and cooperation that exist among partner nations in the region.
“El Salvador has an important role in the fight against transnational crime, narcotrafficking, and human trafficking,” said Adm. Faller in a press release from the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador. “We recognize the collaboration we’ve had, and we stress the importance of continuing to have a strong relationship to fight together for the security and prosperity of both countries.”
The trip was an opportunity for SOUTHCOM’s commander to get to know the leaders of partner nations that contribute to regional peace, and show the enduring support of the United States. “We know partnerships work; we know partnerships between friends who trust each other work best, [they] respect and support each other,” said Adm. Faller. “That’s why I’m here, to continue our enduring promise as both a partner and a friend, ready to continue our collaborative work in support of peace, security, and the stability that we all value.”