By Dialogo August 04, 2009 The Itaipú hydroelectric power plant, the world’s largest generating plant currently in operation, is working on the development of an electric bus that it hopes to start testing this year and that will join other “green” vehicles produced by the same firm. The bus represents a new phase in Itaipú’s project, in association with car-manufacturing firm Fiat, to develop a family of electric vehicles with “zero emission” of greenhouse gases. As part of this project by Itaipú, a binational Brazilian-Paraguayan firm, twenty-five cars and the prototype of an electric truck have already been manufactured. “Since we were already producing four electric vehicles a month, we decided to open new fronts in our work and develop heavy and mid-weight electric vehicles,” said the Brazilian general coordinator of the Electric Vehicle Project, Celso Novais, speaking to EFE in Foz de Iguazú, where the hydroelectric plant is located. The bus is currently in a design phase, and “the expectation is that we’ll start to assemble the first prototype on 5 September in order to start test-driving it within Itaipú on 15 November,” he explained. According to Novais, the bus is a project by Itaipú in association with Iveco, Fiat’s subsidiary for cargo vehicles, and the Brazilian autobody manufacturer Mascarello. The Swiss firm KWO, which developed the electrical system, also participated in manufacturing the cars. Itaipú has already mastered the technology needed to manufacture electric cars, and after having developed and won approval for the Palio Weekend (Fiat), with a range of 120 kilometers, the firm is working on projects to improve its efficiency and reduce its price. “As far as the truck is concerned, we’ve already been successful in around 70% of our tests of the first prototype,” Novais affirmed. The truck, a double-cab model, has a five-ton capacity (2.5 tons of its own weight and 2.5 tons of cargo), a range of one hundred kilometers, and a top speed of one hundred kilometers per hour. According to the engineers, it uses three batteries, due to the fact that it has a forty-kilowatt motor, almost three times more powerful than the motor used in the cars, which run on fifteen kilowatts. “We designed it to meet the needs of cooperatives that produce energy from biomass and want to use their excess for transport, as a way of saving fuel,” the engineer explained. “In Paraná (the southern Brazilian state in which Itaipú is located) there are a number of agricultural producers and pig farmers who have a surplus of biomass and use it to run their own electrical generators. They asked us for help because they produce more energy than they can consume,” he added. According to Novais, the electric truck costs more than a vehicle that runs on conventional fuels, but for the farmers it is more economical, because they do not pay for fuel. The engineer admitted that even though they are ecological models that do not cause pollution and are about as efficient as conventional vehicles, the great problem for electric vehicles is their price, practically double that of comparable gasoline-powered vehicles. “Since they use a special battery and components that aren’t yet mass-produced, their cost goes up a lot,” he added, explaining that the sodium battery represents almost 50% of the vehicle’s price. Nevertheless, Novais indicated that electric vehicles compensate over the long run from the financial perspective, because the cost per kilometer traveled is four times less than for gasoline-powered vehicles. According to his explanation, with 3.6 dollars’ worth of charge in the battery, at Brazilian residential utility rates, it is possible to travel 120 kilometers. “To go the same distance with a conventional vehicle, you’d have to pay four times as much,” he said. In order to reduce production costs, Itaipú is working on two strategies, developing a less-expensive battery and reducing the vehicle’s weight in order to increase its range, Novais said. A lighter-weight prototype made with carbon fiber had twice the range (220 kilometers), but its cost also went up due to the price of the material.
Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim received French Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, to whom he confirmed that there will be a delay of “some months” in the decision on a fighter-plane purchase for which the United States and Sweden are also competing, according to official sources. According to Defense Ministry sources, this was one of the matters Alliot-Marie discussed today with Jobim, who explained to her that, due to the budget cuts announced by Dilma Rousseff’s administration in February, the operation has been put on hold “for a few months.” The defense budget for this year was approximately 8.823 billion dollars, but with the cuts decided on by the administration, it will end up at approximately 6.470 billion dollars, resulting in a review of all military acquisitions, the sources said. In the case of the fighter planes, the operation “has not been canceled,” but it has been put on hold “until the budget problems are overcome,” spokespeople at the Defense Ministry’s press office noted. The competitors for the purchase of thirty-six fighter-bombers for the Brazilian Air Force are Rafale planes from the French firm Dassault, Super Hornet F/A-18s from the U.S. firm Boeing, and Gripen NGs from the Swedish firm Saab. By Dialogo February 25, 2011
By Dialogo April 12, 2011 A working group led by the Ecuadorean vice minister of defense, Rosa Mercedes Pérez, and her Colombian counterpart, Rafael Guarín, established overall guidelines for strengthening border security between the two countries at meetings in Quito on 4 and 5 April. These meetings resulted in agreement on a Binational Action Program to Strengthen Border Security containing twenty-one wide-ranging action items, according to the Ecuadorean Defense Ministry. The actions are directed toward strengthening border security, along twenty-one wide-ranging lines of action directed toward strengthening security in the border area and increasing the exchange of information and the capacity to better confront threats to security. The document additionally establishes a follow-up and evaluation mechanism chaired by the vice defense ministers, who will hold biannual meetings to evaluate the program’s implementation and recommend other measures to promote progress in bilateral cooperation. This agreement also fits in with the work of the Binational Border Commission (COMBIFRON). In order to implement the road map, six working groups have been created, made up of officials from the defense ministries and armed forces of both nations, in the areas of measures for monitoring mobility and informal border crossings, communication strategy in the border area, civic-military actions, development-support actions (protection of the population, indigenous communities, and prevention of enlistment in criminal groups), illegal mining and biodiversity protection, monitoring the trafficking of arms, ammunition, and explosives, and other areas of cooperation. The delegations included, in addition to the vice defense ministers, the Colombian vice minister for the Defense Social and Business Group and the Ecuadorean deputy secretary of defense for development, as well as officers of the armed forces. The agreement will be signed by the Ecuadorean and Colombian defense ministers.
By Dialogo May 10, 2011 The Brazilian government has available a fund of 10 billion reais (6.25 billion dollars) with which to pay individuals who voluntarily turn in their firearms to the authorities, Justice Minister José Cardozo announced on 6 May. “We have 10 billion reais available to indemnify whomever turns in a gun. I believe that no minister has said this before, but I hope that all that money is used up, so as to be able to look for more,” the official remarked in Rio de Janeiro, where the permanent disarmament plan was relaunched. The official disarmament campaign was launched seven years ago and was made permanent in September 2010. This new stage of the plan was moved forward a month due to the massacre at a Rio de Janeiro school a month ago, in which twelve children were shot and killed by a former student who entered the center firing two revolvers. “We urge Brazilians to help to prevent tragedies like the one that took place in Realengo. The objective is to collect as many guns as possible by 31 December,” Cardozo continued. Dozens of people came to various locations all around the city to turn in their firearms, which were immediately destroyed by the authorities. For each gun collected, the government is paying between 60 and 120 dollars. Between 1997 and 2008, the Army destroyed more than 1.8 million firearms, according to a study by a private NGO, which revealed that at least 8 million more guns are in the hands of civilians, security forces, and criminals.
After six weeks of joint training exercises in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the first Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercise between the 3rd U.S. Marine and Special Operations Command Battalion (USMARSOC) and the Brazilian Marine Corps’ elite Fuzileiros Navais concluded in late September. Lieutenant Colonel Jon Duke, Commander of the 3rd Marine and Special Operations Battalion explained that the JCET team has been preparing to increase their engagements with the Brazilian Marine Corps since 2010 with the purpose of deepening their relationship with their Brazilian counterparts. “Due to Brazil’s increasing role as a global power and important U.S. partner, the USMARSOC JCET team prepared, for this exercise for 18 months,” said LtCol Duke. The military-to-military engagement with the Brazilian Fuzileiros Navais focused on the exchange of tactics procedures including direct action and special reconnaissance tactics such as close-quarters battle skills. For his part, Colonel Fernando Jose Afonso Ferreira de Sousa, commander of the Toneleros, the special operations battalion within the Brazilian Fuzileiros Navais, stated, “The exchange between the units was important to learn from the experiences of each other.” Some of the highlights included seeing the different types of terrain that Brazilian Fuzileiros train and operate in, because the participating U.S. Marines were used to operating in the Middle East. “An overall lesson we all took back is that Marines are Marines all around the world,” stated LtCol Duke. Among others, the participants also trained in specific marksmanship skills, including sniper skills that are beneficial to both sides. “We were very impressed with the Fuzileiros’ professionalism and experience in reconnaissance skills,” said LtCol Duke when discussing the lessons the U.S. Marines took from their Brazilian counterparts. “The Brazilian culture is so rich, it was an impressive aspect of the overall experience, too,” he added. But in working together, the U.S. also left behind important lessons for the Brazilians. The integration of intelligence and operations at the team level and the integration of intelligence at a very tactical level were important aspects of the joint training that the U.S. Marines showed their Brazilian partners. “The MARSOC team provided the highest quality personnel, training, and capabilities, and developed a lasting camaraderie with the Toneleros”, added Col. Ferreira de Sousa. During the six weeks of training, the participants of both countries built solid relationships that will pave the way ahead for future engagements. By Dialogo October 12, 2011
Congratulations to the Inter-American Defense College for its 50 years of existence! And also congratulations to all those persons that have gone through that high academic center of the hemisphere during this time. I carefully read the material that, on the occasion of the anniversary, was published from 10 to 12 October, and I really liked the participation of the Mayor of the town of Mixco, Otto PÃ©rez Leal, without doubt a graduated from that Center of Studies. The local administration believes in the alliance of the Municipal police, the National police, and the National army as a crime prevention mechanism. I received with interest the information about his new Director’s Vision.- By Dialogo October 31, 2012 Fifty years ago, in October 1962, the world was at the brink of a nuclear war, communications went global when the Telstar 1 satellite beamed live transatlantic television signals from space, and movie goers fell in love with the first James Bond film. On that exact month and year, the Inter-American Defense College opened its doors in an old fort in Washington, D.C., and since then, almost 2,500 military and civilian leaders in the Western Hemisphere have graduated from this institution. A good number of these students later became presidents, ministers, ambassadors, admirals, and generals, all of whom share a common sense of cooperation and understanding among nations. Nestled in the same building, now framed by grown trees, the college celebrated its golden anniversary from October 10-12, with a symposium focused on the role of the military in hemispheric security. During a break in the event, the director of the school, Rear Adm. Lemmons told Diálogo that one of the school’s goals for the next five decades of academic excellence is to continue to attract a student body that represents the very best minds from the Western Hemisphere. Diálogo: The world has changed considerably since the first students and professors walked up the stairs of the Inter-American Defense College building, 50 years ago. How has the school adapted to these changes to stay relevant? Rear Admiral Jeffrey Lemmons: Some people think that at the Inter-American Defense College we just decide what to study, but we listen very closely to the Organization of American States (OAS), to the Committee on Hemispheric Security… We listen to the sound of the OAS General Assembly and the decisions they come to when they meet around the hemisphere. And the things that are of concern are the things that we must focus on because we work for the Inter-American Defense Board, which works for the OAS. So some people say “you just decide what you would study”, but no. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War there were decisions about what is now important in the new world order, what are the things affecting the nations of the hemisphere. I was not here, but the curriculum had to be modified to address those changes that were going on in the world. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the OAS met in Bridgetown, Barbados, and in Mexico to make decisions that prompted changes. And things keep evolving; the threat now is asymmetric. It is now transnational criminal organizations, and we have to listen, and we have to change the curriculum so that we continue to be relevant and timely and appropriate to the things that are of concern to the OAS and to the Inter-American Defense Board. Diálogo: Has the IADC’s mission changed over the years? Rear Adm. Lemmons: Our mission is the same since 1962: to take officers and civilians from the Armed Forces and from government organizations of the hemisphere and prepare them for their role in defense and security. That basic mission may have new ideas, topics or subjects to discuss but at the end, they [the students] must be prepared when they go back [to their countries]. Diálogo: The Inter-American Defense College has a proven record of graduates that become leaders in their respective fields. Can you elaborate on that? Rear Adm. Lemmons: We have had over 2,500 graduates, over 20 have become ministers of defense, three became presidents of their nations, almost 800 became admirals and generals, and many other have been high government officials. Those are large numbers for a small group. They are very strong when they come here and it is our hope that they are stronger when they leave. And the two things they take with them are a very good thorough examination of the issue that affects the hemisphere today, and a very strong friendship with their classmates, so they can work together on issues that affect everyone. Diálogo: The IADC is nestled in a U.S. Army fort, in the heart of the United States, and the school director is a U.S. Navy Admiral. Does this mean this is a U.S.-centric college? Rear Adm. Lemmons: That is a question I get a lot. One thing I always say to our visitors when they walk through the door is, “Welcome to the Hemisphere. Welcome to the Americas. Behind you, you left the United States outside the door.” It just happens that in 1962 they selected these buildings, on this Army base, where there are other colleges, but they gave them to the Organization of the American States. To me, that is very precious, and that means that I must work extra, extra hard so that people don’t think that this is a U.S.-driven program; it is a U.S.-sponsored program. Somebody has to pay the water and the electricity bill. And because we are the host and because there are some U.S. funds and decisions, it has been decided that a U.S. general or admiral will be in charge of handling those moneys. That’s where it stops. Our agenda is international; it is a hemispheric agenda. My vice-director is a three-star general from Brazil; my chief of studies is a two-star admiral from Peru. We have 15 countries represented in the current class. We are all elected by the IADB council of delegates, which represents dozens of countries from the hemisphere. You can speak any language and we have simultaneous interpretation [available for everyone], not only for the academics. We have social events, family events, sports days, family days, because the students come with their spouses and their children so the entire family is involved in the experience. Diálogo: In his inaugural speech, Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina noted that the relationships he built as a student here have proved to be key during his career. Is building alliances and knocking down walls between countries part of the curriculum? Rear Adm. Jeffrey Lemmons: It is important that people understand that these students are prepared in two major ways when they graduate from our course. One, they receive a very thoughtful education, a combination of individual study, group work, lectures, seminars, trips… The idea is that they should hear these things now, not in the middle of a crisis. You practice before you have to use this, so you are better prepared. The second part is they get to know each other. Someday in the future, in who knows what situation, when things are getting tense or when issues are unfolding quickly and decisions need to be made, the question is who do you know? Who do you trust? Who can you call? They leave with a good, well-rounded education, with trust in each other and with a team that they can draw from in the future. Diálogo: Now that the IADC turned 50, what are your most immediate plans? Rear Admiral Jeffrey Lemmons: It is not enough to look back and say “what a great 50 years we had.” Now the challenge is to strengthen the college so when it turns 100 it continues to do its job. Originally there were three buildings given by U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk to then OAS Secretary General José Mora. Those three buildings were now returned to the college; we had lost two back to the United States but we recently retrieved them, and we are working to expand the campus. Someday we hope to have a college that can house more students, because we are [currently] limited to 60. We are also strengthening our curriculum to provide our own Master’s Degree in Western Hemisphere Defense and Security Studies.
The PNC is using social media to improve public safety. The PNC has a significant presence on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest and YouTube. Overall, the PNC has more than 1 million followers on different social media platforms. The PNC uses social media to spread messages about how to avoid robberies, kidnappings, and extortions. The PNC puts out a steady stream of messages about community-based prevention programs. The PNC also uses social media to provide phone numbers that members of the public can use to report crimes and provide information on suspects. The social media efforts have helped the PNC connect with the civilian community. The community is responding by providing the PNC more information, which helps police solve crimes and find stolen items. For example, from December 2013 through February 2014, the PNC has recovered 1,333 stolen motorcycles and 536 stolen cars. Security forces have seized large numbers of explosives and drugs in recent years. For example, between 2011 and 2013, Colombian security forces seized 130 tons of explosives and destroyed 35,847 explosive devices, according to the Ministry of Defense. The Colombian National Police (PNC) and Armed Forces have also confiscated large quantities of drugs. Between 2011 and 2013, security forces seized 393 tons of cocaine, which were worth more than $12 million (USD), authorities said. In 2012, the National Police seized 548,697 kilograms of cocaine, cocaine base, crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. That was 76,000 kilograms more – an increase of 16 percent – from the amount security forces seized in 2011. Seizures of marijuana were also up sharply. In 2013, security forces seized 347 tons of marijuana, 50 tons more than they confiscated in 2012. It was the highest quantity of marijuana Colombian security forces have seized since 1993. The Antinarcotics Division of the National Police, led by Gen. Ricardo Alberto Restrepo, and the Criminal Investigation Office, led by Brig. Gen. Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, cooperated with the Cauca polic to seize 468 kilograms of heroin in 2012. Throughout the country, security forces in 2012 seized more than 91,000 hallucinogenic pills, a 93 percent increase over the number of pills the National Police and the Armed Forces confiscated in 2011. By Dialogo March 13, 2014 While security forces have made progress in lowering the rate of killings and other crimes, they must remain vigilant against the theft of oil from pipelines and attacks against oil industry infrastructure. Attacks on oil infrastructure increased by nearly 72 percent in 2013. These attacks create economic and environmental damage and create psychological damage, Andrade said. “This form of terrorism affects the economy and the perception of security, besides the enormous ecological damage that is caused by each of these crimes, decreases the possibility of foreign investment and increases security costs,” Andrade said. The PNC and the Armed Forces are working hard to prevent attacks on oil infrastructure and to capture those who commit these crimes. Security forces are also cracking down on domestic drug sales, Andrade said. In recent years, organized crime groups like the FARC and Los Urabenos have sold more drugs inside Colombia, authorities said. About 20 percent of the drugs produced in Colombia are sold to drug users inside the country, officials said. “We went from being a producer country to a consumer country, with variables such as the so-called ‘electronic bazuco’ (slot machines and other gambling games),” Andrade said. “Criminal gangs have taken ownership of these businesses and does not discriminate in its expansion. This scourge of drug addiction and gambling is increasingly penetrating our youth from an early age and is becoming the cause for which they are committing crimes.” Social media campaign Seizures of explosives and drugs Goals and challenges The PNC and the Armed Forces are executing a security strategy that involves the gathering and use of intelligence, cracking down on organized crime groups, higher levels of professionalism, and improved relationships with local communities. “All security forces in Colombia have implemented management strategies such as strategic planning, defining objectives to results but based on respect for human rights and the humanization of the police service, and training programs for the development of specific skills,” said Sonia Andrade, a security analyst at the Superior School of Colombian Police and the Colombian Army Intelligence and Counterintelligence University. Police have improved public safety with the “Safety Quadrant, Safety City Program,” in which security forces are deployed to specific neighborhoods to maximize visible police presence and response time. The PNC’s “Green Heart” program has also helped improve public safety, Andrade said. In the Green Heart initiative, police concentrate on protecting communities vulnerable to organized crime enterprises, fighting extortion, and combatting the theft of oil and minerals. Among the organized crime groups which operate in Colombia are the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); the National Liberation Army (ELN); Los Urabenos, Los Rastrojos, and the BACRIM. The Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexican transnational criminal organization, also operates in the country. On Feb. 22, 2014, Mexican security forces captured cartel’s longtime kingpin, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The PNC is cooperating with Interpol on a security initiative known as the Enterprise Security Front. The partnership is known as the Direction of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (DIJIN). The DIJIN concentrates on fighting transnational criminal organizations. The DIJIN operates throughout the country to stop the criminal enterprises of the FARC and other organized crime groups. Meanwhile, authorities are trying to achieve a long-term resolution to the 50-year conflict with the FARC. Government representatives are engaged in ongoing peace talks with the FARC in Havana. “We are witnessing a peace negotiation. This can be a great opportunity for peace,” Andrade said. “One of our challenges is to combat urban violence. We’re not talking about a fight at the institutional level but citizen participation. Colombia requires a cultural change. Education programs in the social and civic field to eliminate intolerance and avoid confrontations between civilians.” Overall crime in Colombia has plunged to levels not seen in more than 30 years, thanks to the efforts of the country’s security forces. The dramatic decrease in crime is attributable to security initiatives led by Gen. Rodolfo Palomino López, chief of the Colombian National Police, and the Ministry of Defense, which is led by Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno. These security initiatives rely heavily on the use of intelligence. The National Police and the Armed Forces cooperated closely on several security initiatives. Colombia experienced a reduction in several crime categories in 2013. Homicides declined by 7 percent, bank robberies decreased by 15 percent, residential burglaries were down by nearly 11 percent, and thefts of motor vehicles declined by 5 percent. There were increases, some of them dramatic, in other categories. Organized crime attacks were responsible for dramatic surges in two types of crime, extortion, which increased by 52 percent, and attacks on oil infrastructure, which went up by nearly 72 percent. Fighting organized crime A need for continued vigilance
In addition to providing medical and dental care to thousands of Salvadorans, the mission also has an educational component, not only for physicians but also veterinarians. For example, seminars are planned for mission partners and NGOs about women’s health, vector management, and education about mosquitoes for personnel at the Central Military Hospital and the Jorge Mazzini Hospital in the department of Sonsonate. Professional and cultural exchange The anxiously awaited two-week medical outreach campaign began when physicians from different branches of the United States Armed Forces descended from the ship. They’ll provide health care to 12,000 Salvadoran nationals – 600 appointments per day – and perform 100 surgeries in the ship’s modern facilities. “We are thrilled to be in El Salvador,” said CP-15 mission commander Captain Sam Hancock. “This is the sixth of 11 stops, and we will work here together with our Salvadoran partners and colleagues to provide medical assistance and relief to those who need it.” “We have received the visit of an extraordinary Naval unit from an allied nation with a shining history of humanitarian assistance,” Munguía Payés said. “And now we Salvadorans have the privilege of benefiting from their goodwill with significant aid to our people.” This humanitarian initiative began in 2007. CP-15 is the seventh such mission carried out under the guidance of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Treatment and gratitude The arrival of the Comfort is an historic moment in the history of military cooperation El Salvador and the United States have developed over decades, said Salvadoran Minister of Defense David Munguía Payés. Planning for the humanitarian mission began in 2014. The USNS Comfort left the state of Virginia in late March and has already stopped in Belize, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Jamaica. The vessel sails the coasts of Latin America and the Caribbean for a period of six months every two years, with about 1,000 U.S. Navy doctors, nurses, and dentists. “I trust what this good doctor has prescribed for the pain in my hands; I had truly lost faith. I am very grateful for how lovingly they have treated me, and for the medicine they have given me. God bless them.” “We cannot wait to work with our friends and partners during this part of our mission to strengthen our ties in support of the lasting friendship between the United States and El Salvador,” Capt. Hancock said. “This friendship underscores our common values, our interests, and our commitment to this unit and to regional security.” On the morning of June 17, as classical music played in the background courtesy of the famous United States Fleet Forces Brass Band Uncharted Waters, patients waited calmly for their turn to see the doctors and dentists. In addition, a team of U.S. veterinarians, working with their Salvadoran counterparts, will visit communities in throughout the department to provide treatment for farm animals and pets. Acajutla Mayor Hugo Arriola said the people waited several months for this mission, ever since they learned the ship’s arrival date. “So I extended my sincerest gratitude to those who made this dream possible.” María Paz Pérez, 25, brought her 8-month-old daughter, Sofía, who had a fever the previous few nights. Physicians aboard the ship will provide medical and dental care to Salvadorans until June 25. In the coming months the vessel and its physicians will travel to Colombia, Barbados, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Haiti to continue providing medical care. CP-15 is scheduled to conclude its mission in September. Doctors will conduct surgeries in four of the 12 operating rooms on board the hospital ship. The vessel is equipped with rooms for brain surgery, an intensive care unit, and facilities to take X-rays and store blood. There is also a heliport above deck to quickly transport patients when necessary. Medical personnel on the ship will provide treatment in gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics, physical therapy, cardiology, and dentistry. By Dialogo June 29, 2015 When will they open up access through Sogamosoa Yopal? As soon as the vessel arrived in El Salvador, physicians and dentists aboard the vessel set up a medical base at the Dr. Eduardo Enrique Barrientos School Center, in the department of Sonsonate, to begin providing medical and dental services to Salvadorans. An historic moment To facilitate communications between patients and doctors, 120 university students served as interpreters at each appointment. “I wouldn’t know how to explain how thankful I am for these doctors, who have come so far to help us,” Pérez said through tears. “They’ve already examined my daughter. She has an ear infection, and they gave me medicine to cure it. This is priceless for a poor, single mother like me.” Physicians aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort are providing medical and dental care to thousands of Salvadorans at the halfway point of the “Continuing Promise” (CP-15) humanitarian mission. The U.S. Navy ship dropped anchor on June 15 at the Port of Acajutla in El Salvador before hundreds of children and parents who look to this mission to seek free medical and dental care. Dozens of domestic and foreign journalists also visit the port every day to view the impressive ship and the scope of the humanitarian mission. Similar sentiments were expressed by Juan Antonio Díaz, a former carpenter in his 70s who suffers from arthritis in his hands and lives in an impoverished and remote area of the municipality of Acajutla. Unchartered Waters will perform various concerts in the municipalities of Santa Ana, Sonsonate and San Salvador, as well as during each of the outreach events, so the patients and other residents can enjoy the band’s extensive musical repertoire. “This is an experience I will never forget. I am helping these good doctors to alleviate the suffering of my countrymen,” said Juan Marcos Martínez, a student at the University of El Salvador (UES). “The patients’ gratitude and happiness for the help they’ve received show on their faces. These are two feelings I’m sure the doctors understand without my assistance.”
By Marian Romero/Diálogo October 20, 2017 The Colombian authorities carried out an operation to intercept an unauthorized aircraft in the airspace above the López de Micay municipality, in the department of Cauca, on August 8th. The air defense and surveillance system used by the Colombian Air Force (FAC, per its Spanish acronym) detected three unauthorized aircraft; two in the Caribbean which ended up not entering Colombian airspace, and a single-engine Cessna 210 that was identified as an illegal flight. The plane did not have identification or a flight plan, and it was traveling at an altitude of 200 feet, considered dangerous for that type of aircraft, which, under normal conditions, is supposed to fly at 3,000 feet. It also ignored the security warnings and appeals that are done in these cases. The plane had the capacity to transport approximately 700 kilograms of cocaine. “At first, it was determined that it was in violation of Colombia’s sovereign air space and it was classified as a suspect aircraft. Once it was confirmed that it did not have a tail number and that it had no intention to communicate, it was established that it was a hostile aircraft. At that point, the security protocol was activated to carry out the interdiction,” Colonel Jorge Saavedra, the director of Air Defense for the FAC, explained. Air interdiction process Colombia and the United States government are signatories to an Air Bridge Denial (ABD) agreement, an air interception accord that strengthens the Colombian government’s capacity for eradicating the illegal trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances by air. This program’s priority is to intercept suspect and hostile aircraft, forcing them to land so that the competent authorities can then take the necessary measures. The ABD agreement sets forth three phases to prevent the loss of innocent lives in the air or on the ground: 1). Tracking and monitoring aircraft suspected of being involved in illegal trafficking. In this phase, an effort is made to establish radio communication and/or send visual signals to the aircraft to order it to land at an assigned location that is suitable for a safe landing. 2). The use of warning shots with tracer bullets under prior authorization by the FAC commander. At the same time, efforts to establish communication with the aircraft are ongoing. 3). Firing weapons against the intercepted aircraft in the air or on the ground if it does not respond to the communications. In this phase, the goal is to disable the aircraft to force its landing, and if it is on the ground, to prevent it from taking off. “It is essential to carry out these procedures word for word, without skipping any of the phases, to ensure the safety of civil aviation and to avoid operational errors,” FAC Major Álvaro Moreno Aranzales, the officer in charge of the mission in López de Micay, explained. “We use the gradual application of force to protect life, which is a priority. In this case, the procedure was carried out on a beach where the aircraft had landed. When it didn’t respond to our appeals, we had to disable it.” The beach where it had illegally landed is uninhabited, just like most of the territory in López de Micay. That area has about 13,000 residents, which is a small number considering its size, 3,241 square kilometers of land. “The beaches of the Colombian Pacific are very wide, and criminal organizations have set up landing sites in an attempt to violate our air space, even though landing on sand aboard a Cessna 210 presents a high risk,” Col. Saavedra confirmed. “We know from experience the places that are used for drug trafficking; therefore, they are subjected to special monitoring by air and ground detection units.” The operation was conducted through the FAC Command and Control Center, which dispatched early warning and surveillance aircraft from several combat air commands for the surveillance and interdiction. To carry out the operation, an SR-560 intelligence plane piloted by Maj. Moreno was used, as well as an AC-47 fighter, known as The Ghost, and two A-29 Super Tucanos. Shielded against drug trafficking According to FAC, by 2003, 700 illegal flights per year were occurring on average. Today, the airspace is completely free from these kinds of incidents because aircraft attempting to violate Colombia’s sovereignty are neutralized. Three attempts to violate the nation’s airspace—including the one neutralized in López de Micay—have taken place in 2017, but they were all detected and intercepted. “Today we can confirm that 100 percent of Colombian airspace is protected by FAC,” Col. Saavedra assured. “With our new early alert and detection system, plus the reinforcement of our capacities all these years, we can guarantee that there is no drug trafficking by air in Colombia.” To achieve this result, Colombia has bolstered its intelligence and has formed alliances with all the nations of the region to maintain their mutual assistance and ensure the stability of their airspace. “The main challenge that drug trafficking poses to us is that it changes daily. Because this is transnational crime, it’s important for our nations to be connected and for us to anticipate the actions that the criminals may be planning to carry out,” Col. Saavedra added. “We’ve detected cases of ultralight aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles, but their cargo capacity is minimal—just one or two kilos—and they’ve been intercepted. The biggest challenge is at sea, because the cargo capacity through that avenue is far greater—10 tons—and detection is more complicated in the ocean environment,” he concluded.
By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo December 08, 2017 The Brazilian Air Force possesses unique air capabilities that help victims in the event of natural disasters.Brazilian Air Force General Carlos Vuyk de Aquino, commander of Aerospace Operations, follows military doctrine verbatim. For him, humanitarian aid missions to alleviate human suffering in the aftermath of natural disasters are a point of pride for the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym).Gen. Aquino gave a presentation on FAB’s capabilities in natural disasters and humanitarian aid missions during the South American Air Chiefs Conference, held at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, October 31st–November 3rd, 2017. A tactical mobile hospital and communications equipment are among the disaster response capabilities FAB has at its disposal. Gen. Aquino spoke with Diálogo on the air force’s role in disaster response, international cooperation, and the institutional outlook for 2018.Diálogo: Why is it important for FAB to participate in the South American Air Chiefs Conference 2017?General Carlos Vuyk de Aquino, commander of FAB Aerospace Operations: It is very important for all in South America to participate, because it’s essential to have a good understanding of each nation’s capabilities to assist in the event of natural disasters and how we can come together to bring mutual aid.Diálogo: Why is it important for air forces to collaborate to respond to natural disasters?Gen. Aquino: Air forces have greater mobility and greater capacity to go anywhere. Generally, during natural disasters, towns are cut off and highway conditions make it hard to reach them. It’s quite typical for air forces to be activated to carry out the first rescue contacts.Diálogo: What is your assessment on the level of integration among South American air forces in natural disaster response?Gen. Aquino: It’s very good. We have the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA, per its Spanish acronym), which is a very good tool for initial coordination in natural disaster emergencies. When disaster strikes, people of South America are very gracious, helping with donations and using their air forces to provide a rapid response and deliver specific necessities. Every time requests for help come in from a country, all nations with rapid response resources react immediately.Diálogo: What is your assessment of the conference?Gen. Aquino: Today, we have a better perspective of our nations’ capabilities and how prepared we are to respond when faced with an individual need and the needs of other nations. If we’re all prepared, the response, if an event [a natural disaster] occurs, will be much more efficient.Diálogo: What are FAB’s disaster response capabilities?Gen. Aquino: One really good capability we have is our tactical mobile hospital. Usually, when responding to natural disasters, many victims have specific needs but there is no medical care nearby, so the option of setting up a hospital on-site is very helpful. We also have very good communications equipment, which is essential to coordinate our operations.Diálogo: How does FAB work with Brazil’s other service branches during natural disasters?Gen. Aquino: In Brazil, the Ministry of Defense has various plans that piece everything together. The Ministry of Defense coordinates the efforts when a specific need arises and deploys our forces.Diálogo: How does FAB help counter national security problems?Gen. Aquino: We have Operation Ostium, which creates a barrier to control illegal transnational transit of all kinds of materials, drugs, etc. FAB maintains that barrier, and today, we employ all our resources, such as radar planes. We will apply more intelligence to the process to get a better idea of where to do our operations at the right moment.Diálogo: What were FAB’s net results in 2017?Gen. Aquino: FAB is going through administrative and operational structure changes. We’re transforming the air force so that it becomes more effective at a lower operational cost. FAB will turn 100 in 2041, and we’re already preparing for that. We’re now in a process we call “Air Force 100,” and we began the transformation to get to an air force that can meet all the needs of the Brazilian government by 2041.Diálogo: And what are FAB’s plans for 2018?Gen. Aquino: In 2018, we’ll have several exercises in the operational area. We hope there aren’t any natural disasters. We planned exercises to which all South American nations are invited. For example, we have the Cruzex exercise planned for late 2018, with the participation of the United States, Canada, France, and other countries, because we know that only through joint mission integration will we truly be ready to address potential events in the world. Cruzex is more than a big exercise; it’s our approach to be prepared to address all needs.Diálogo: What is your message to air forces of the region regarding responding to natural disasters?Gen. Aquino: We need to keep exchanging more information about our capabilities. At this conference, I gave a presentation on Brazil’s capabilities. The idea is that someday SICOFAA may have a regional database with all our assets and capabilities, etc. My message is that air forces can count on FAB when needed.