March 22, 2017 —
SAN ANTONIO– The first day of the Central American Regional Leaders Conference took place today on Joint Base San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston. In attendance are senior military and police officials from throughout Central America.
During the three-day conference, these senior leaders will discuss regional challenges and ways to work with each other and the United States to solve these problems. Not only will the conference allow them to develop and agree to a plan for the next three to five years, the leaders will also take a look back at the previous conference agreements and assess progress.
“Every partner here today is already successful. We all have the capacity to protect our sovereign borders and disrupt threats,” said Maj. Gen. K.K. Chinn, commanding general, U.S. Army South. Chinn, the host for the conference, also stressed the importance of building trust and relationships during the conference.
“It takes a network to beat a network,” he said referring to all the partners in the room, “and our common threat is illicit networks that are operating in our region.”
One solution to that question came from Belize Defense Force Commander Brig. Gen David Jones. Jones suggested a new joint venture to help to counter drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere.
“All the countries represented here need to be a player and need to be willing to cooperate in such a venture,” he said after volunteering to host the first meeting.
At its inception, only five nations attended the conference. Ten countries are participating in this year’s discussions, including the Dominican Republic and Colombia, who have not previously attended the conference.
“Open and frank discussion is the overall goal of the conference. Allowing for a dialogue and exchange of ideas are the reasons why the conference was started 10 years ago and continues to evolve every year,” said Col. Rocky Burrell, director for Army South Regional Affairs and one of the key organizers of the conference.
“Communication is key, we have to prioritize our threats and determine how to best work together on achieving our common goals,” said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Simeon Trombitas, the conference’s facilitator.
The conference will give allotted time for each country’s representatives to share insights about their respective capabilities and challenges. These presentations help inform the other partners in attendance and provide the opportunity to identify potential areas of mutually beneficial collaboration and cooperation at the partner nation level.
According to an introductory brief from Col. Tim Teague, director of plans for U.S. Army South, there are four main threats which plague the security of Central American countries, drug trafficking, gang activity throughout Central and North America, migration trends and how migration stresses partner nation resources, and violent extremist organizations.
“These four threats are complex problem sets that will take a considerable amount of strategic planning and resource commitment to help solve,” said Teague.
If the three day conference is successful in achieving its objectives, said Burrell, each partner nation army and police organization in attendance will return home and provide an outline to their nation’s leaders about how army and law enforcement branches can to assist in achieving real results against these threats.