The U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS) provided training to troops of the Salvadoran Army’s Sumpul Command through the Border Legislation course. The course is designed to increase the operational and response capabilities of Salvadoran military components. The training was conducted in San Salvador, September 24th-28th.
“The advice and knowledge DIILS provided enabled the command’s personnel to combine the different legal instruments used in the international arena for border control, and how those should always strive to respect human rights,” Salvadoran Army Colonel Walter Jacobo Lobato Villatoro, commander of the Sumpul Command, told Diálogo. The most important aspects of the training were compiled in a document submitted to the Salvadoran Armed Force's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. service members shared their knowledge and experience on border security and control, international law, the importance of human rights, the worldwide drug problems, and the role of the military in internal armed conflicts with eight units of the Salvadoran Army and one of the Salvadoran Navy. They also addressed the use of force, port security, maritime law, and terrorism. “Modern terrorists learned how to exploit global connectivity. Terrorism is no longer one country’s problem, but a worldwide problem,” said Col. Lobato.
Through simulations, participants observed how terrorist organizations could influence El Salvador with money to permeate and corrupt some institutions. These bribes can lead to breaches in security and national defense and could also disrupt the nation’s normal operations.
As part of efforts to keep Salvadoran borders secure, participants learned more about strategic angles of cooperation among the armed forces, internal and external security agencies, and partner nations to contribute to the fight against terrorism and narcotrafficking. The training included service members’ support tasks to law enforcement for security, with full respect for human rights.
Among the topics that caught participants’ attention was human trafficking, “a worldwide problem and one of the crimes that deprives millions of people of their dignity, in which criminal organizations reap large sums of money by deceiving women, children, and men and subjecting them to sexual exploitation, forced labor, serving as drug mules, child begging, slavery, and organ trafficking,” Col. Lobato said. “All the lessons that [the United States] learned and kindly passed down help us change the way we act and protect our borders.”
DIILS instructors not only shared knowledge and experience, but also strategic day-to day tools. “They gave us one of the most important tools to implement procedures or seek intelligence information: knowing how to win people’s hearts and minds as public servants,” said Salvadoran Army Second Lieutenant Kevin Avilar Cordero, a Sumpul Command member who attended the training.
Training and international legislation prospects
The Sumpul Command monitors 30 unauthorized border crossing points along the Salvadoran land borders to reduce and prevent narcotrafficking, human trafficking, and illegal trafficking of goods. From 2015 to October 2018, troops seized more than $2.6 million in illegal goods and dozens of weapons. “These positive results are due to training and the planning of patrol and surveillance routes,” 2nd Lt. Avilar said.
El Salvador and the United States work hand in hand. So far in 2018, the U.S. military trained 80 members of the Sumpul Command in different areas, such as human rights, border security, narcotrafficking, and cybersecurity. Salvadoran authorities trust the cooperation will continue.
“We held meetings with U.S. Southern Command to continue with this training next year, so as to maintain our units’ high level of operational readiness, wherever required. We also hope that international law prospects will expand, as well as the application of that law to the different scenarios we face,” said Col. Lobato.
“We finished the document for border legislation training, in which we deal with important matters that our unit could implement. We anticipate that the Salvadoran Armed Force's Joint Chiefs of Staff will approve it at the end of November ,” Col. Lobato said.
Once the document is approved, orders will be passed down to Sumpul Command’s border units. “The outcome of this knowledge and experience will help us see different ways of obtaining information, reaching people, and being more strategic and operational,” 2nd Lt. Avilar said.
“The Salvadoran Armed Force is always happy to cooperate in international security. We think this is one way to do it: protecting our borders and preventing these threats [terrorism, narcotrafficking, and human trafficking] from entering our country and spreading into other areas,” Col. Lobato said.