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News | April 22, 2024

Guatemala Hosts Central American Security Conference, Focuses on Cyber Security

By Steve Mcloud, U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala - For this year’s Central American Security Conference (CENTSEC), defense and public-security leaders from the United States and Central America discussed the central theme to the conference which was utilizing innovations to protect borders in all domains.

Guatemala City was the location this year as the Minister of Defense Brigadier General Henry David Saenz co-hosted this iteration of CENTSEC with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which sponsors the annual conference.

“Today, the threats we collectively face have only increased in scope and intensity. Democracy and its values are under attack globally and here in the Western Hemisphere,” said U.S. Army Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command. “Success requires a whole of society and integrated approach that leverages diplomacy, information sharing, military readiness, and economics. It's what I call Team Democracy. Central America is critical to the Western Hemisphere, and it is so important this region and its people are bonded together by history, economics, and familial ties.”

Twelve nations participated with security leaders and delegations from Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States in attendance.

They were joined by officials and subject matter experts from the Coordination Center for the Prevention of Disasters in Central America and the Dominican Republic (CEPREDENAC), the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CFAC), Inter-American Defense Board, and the Inter-American Defense College.

Richardson, along with Guatemalan Minister of Defense Brigadier General Henry David Sanez, addressed the group of leaders during a ceremony officially marking the start of the day’s multilateral discussions. The day before, Richardson along with Minister Saenz attended a Women’s Peace, and Security event held by SOUTHCOM.

The panels for this year’s CENTSEC included plenary sessions on data analytics to counter threats, as well as cyber security.

In her opening remarks, Richardson reiterated the importance of cyber security and the threats that non-state actors and countries like China, Russia, Iran, can pose in the cyber domain to influence, undermine, and destabilize societies.

“Cyber is an all-encompassing domain that links every facet of society, from social media disinformation to essential infrastructure. The fact is, is that the cyber domain affects everyone, including presidents, ministers, government organizations, the private sector and every single citizen,” said Richardson.

SOUTHCOM sponsors CENTSEC to promote and facilitate dialogue and cooperation among regional security partners focused on challenges of mutual concern and shared goals. These SOUTHCOM-sponsored conferences are an opportunity for defense and security leaders to strengthen cooperative ties among regional forces, engage in candid dialogue on pertinent issues, evaluate challenges impacting regional security, share successes and lessons learned, and explore ways to enhance security cooperation to build on prior successes.

Guatemala last hosted CENTSEC in 2014.