U.S. Air Force Major General Gary W. Keefe, Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, met with Paraguayan Minister of Defense Diógenes Martínez in Asunción. During his visit, Brig. Gen. Keefe confirmed the U.S. intention to continue cooperating with the South American country.
Beginning in 2001, as part of the State Partnership Program (SPP), this joint effort has trained 2,000 Paraguayan military personnel.
The fundamental core of these trainings and exchanges has been infrastructure aid, emergency-relief training, human rights, and dialogue between the two sides on defense issues.
Global concerns, such as security from terrorist threats, transnational organized crime, humanitarian aid, and disaster response have also been discussed.
The Massachusetts National Guard, for example, conducts between eight and 12 exchanges per year. Each lasts about five to seven days and includes up to five trainers.
To discuss this more deeply, Diálogo talked to Minister Martínez, who explained the extent of the cooperation with the U.S. Military.
Diálogo: Within the framework of the SPP, what is the history of this cooperation between Massachusetts and Paraguay since 2001?
Paraguayan Defense Minister Diógenes Martínez: On May 30, 2001, then U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Paraguay David N. Greenlee extended an offer to participate in the Massachusetts State Partnership Program to the Commander of the Armed Forces, and it was accepted by the General Expedito Garrigoza Vera, Commander of the Army, on June 22nd of the same year.
Diálogo: What does this partnership imply for Paraguay in terms of quality of work in the Armed Forces?
Minister Martínez: Professional training for various Armed Forces personnel, learning new techniques, working as a team, relationships with service members from another country, understanding their capabilities in terms of human and material resources. The good thing about the program is that I see a spirit of mutual support and shared benefit. It's not simply "aid."
Diálogo: What final assessment have you been able to make over the course of these years?
Minister Martínez: It has allowed us to facilitate and complement the training of approximately 2,000 military personnel as military observers and contingent support (men and women) in peacekeeping missions within the framework of the United Nations. These military personnel are currently deployed in various countries in Africa, as well as in Haiti, Cyprus, and also closer to home in the Republic of Colombia. They also contribute locally in various departments within our country, by carrying out multiple humanitarian aid missions for the needy.
Diálogo: What specifically does this program develop among the Paraguayan Military personnel, and which division will it work with?
Minister Martínez: Defending against natural disasters, catastrophes, and non-military threats to our population is what is called Civil Defense, and this is the responsibility of the National Defense. What comes out of that is peacekeeping operations, humanitarian aid, exchange of military personnel, human rights, etc. They work directly with the Joint Peace Operations Training Center (CECOPAZ) and indirectly with the Armed Forces Command and individual branches of the Military.
Diálogo: How many people are involved?
Minister Martínez: At least 300 military personnel per year.
Diálogo: What work has been done most recently within the framework of this cooperative effort?
Minister Martínez: In 15 years of cooperation, there have been innumerable works received, especially in the physical infrastructure of CECOPAZ, equipping the Army's English lab and the Multi-role Engineering Company for deployment in Haiti, among other things.
Diálogo: What are the future plans with respect to the program’s renewal? What specifically will be done and with whom?
Minister Martínez: We will continue training military personnel in the different areas offered by the State of Massachusetts, which is Paraguay's friend. We will continue taking advantage of the goodwill resulting from professionalizing the components (men and women) of the Armed Forces.
Diálogo: What is your opinion about the fact that the Massachusetts National Guard is collaborating with you?
Minister Martínez: In my opinion, it is quite satisfactory because, in this case there is reciprocity, both in terms of the effort made and the benefits received, which, of course, is very useful. They also get to train their people in a different environment. Only by staying committed can we work together; by building alliances we can protect our interests, defend our territory, create better conditions for our society, and advance towards opportunities.
Diálogo: What are the areas of most concern to your counterpart in this partnership?
Minister Martínez: The social area, peacekeeping operations, civilian-military relations, humanitarian aid, civil matters, disaster assistance efforts, human rights, and others.
Diálogo: Within the framework of this program, what specific proposals does the Republic of Paraguay have?
Minister Martínez: To continue this relationship and strengthen it even further. Let me say it again: it's an important complement to National Defense, and the best thing is, other than the social services, there is also and at the same time, real training for our military assets.