MIAMI (Sept. 9, 2022) -- U.S. Army Gen. Laura Richardson, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, visited Colombia and Brazil this week, meeting with leaders to discuss security cooperation.
The Sept. 5 - 9 trip aimed to strengthen ties and cooperation with both countries. SOUTHCOM’s Civilian Deputy to the Commander, Amb. Jean Manes, and Senior Enlisted Leader, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones, accompanied Richardson during the visit.
After arriving in Bogotá, Colombia, Sept. 5, Richardson met with Minister of Defense Iván Velásquez to discuss regional security and the U.S.-Colombia security partnership. She also met with Colombia’s top military officer, General Commander of the Colombian Military Forces, Gen. Helder Giraldo, and other senior leaders to discuss continued military-to-military cooperation and regional security.
Later on the 5th, Richardson took part in an awards ceremony where she and retired Colombian Gen. Luis Navarro Jiménez were honored for their efforts in strengthening the U.S.-Colombia security partnership. At the ceremony, Richardson awarded Navarro, the former top military officer in Colombia, with the Legion of Merit. The Colombian military presented the “Faith in Cause” medal to Richardson.
The general traveled to La Macarena in central Colombia Sept. 6 and met with leaders and service members of the Colombian military’s Joint Task Force Omega to see how the unit works to counter threats, including transnational criminal organizations and illicit trafficking.
“I really appreciate coming here to Colombia… our number one security partner in the region, and to be able to see the military forces,” said Richardson said in La Macarena. “The soldiers, the sailors the airmen – it’s really tremendous. I’m really proud of the Colombian armed forces.”
After returning to Bogotá, Richardson met with Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez. Both leaders discussed the U.S.-Colombia security partnership and implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security initiative in the Western Hemisphere.
On Sept. 7, the general visited Colombia’s Rafael Reyes Prieto War College and spent time with Colombian military students and staff. In an address to students, the general discussed the importance of civil-military cooperation to achieve security goals.
“In May, soon after the United States designated Colombia a Major Non-NATO Ally, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that this designation reflects the “depth and breadth of our nations’ security relationship and defense partnership. And back in March, U.S. President Joe Biden said that Colombia is the “linchpin” to the whole southern hemisphere and an essential partner,” Richardson told the students.
“These statements from the highest levels of United States and Colombian leadership confirm the same truth: Colombia is a hallmark of democracy in the region, the Western Hemisphere is largely free and secure because of Colombia’s stabilizing efforts, and Colombia is the United States’ closest security partner,” she said.
Prior to departure from Colombia, Richardson was honored to meet with new Colombian President Gustavo Petro in Bogotá to discuss security cooperation.
Colombia is a close, longstanding regional security partner and leader in countering regional threats, fostering regional security cooperation and supporting humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.
In Brazil Sept. 8, Richardson met with military leaders to discuss security cooperation and take part in events honoring the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence, which was celebrated Sept. 7.
During a visit to the Itaguai Submarine Base (BSIM), Richardson met with Brazilian navy leaders and toured facilities. Later during a visit to the Brazilian navy flagship NAM Atlântico (A 140) Atlântico, Richardson, Manes and Jones met with Brazilian navy leadership and toured the ship.
Brazil and the United States, the two most populous democracies in the Western Hemisphere, enjoy a close bilateral relationship, including in the area of defense, on specific areas such as research and development, information exchanges, training and education, joint military exercises, and commercial initiatives related to defense matters.