MIAMI – Military and public-security leaders from Central America, the United States, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico participated in the 2020 Central America Security Conference (CENTSEC) July 14, hosted virtually by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
This year’s CENTSEC theme was “Strengthening Partnerships to Confront Regional Challenges in a COVID-19 Environment.” The participating leaders discussed the region’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in international efforts to disrupt illicit trafficking and counter transnational criminal organizations active in the region.
Representing Central America during this year’s CENTSEC were Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. Defense leaders from Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico also participated.
Representing the U.S. were leaders and security experts from SOUTHCOM, U.S. Northern Command, the Department of Defense, State Department, the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, and adjutants general from Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
While addressing participants prior to the start of CENTSEC, U.S. Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of SOUTHCOM, stressed the importance of the forum’s timing.
“The threats to our neighborhood are becoming more complicated and ever evolving,” he said.
One of the threats Faller referred to is the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus, a topic of paramount concern to nations present in the forum.
“…the COVID impact on our lives, and societies, on our families, and our personnel has been extreme, and it has caused us all to commit time, people and resources as we focus on the continued health of our force, as well as the readiness of our force,” he said.
During the pandemic, Faller said SOUTHCOM has been working closely with the region, funding more than 200 humanitarian assistance program projects to support the COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts of 26 nations, to which the command has contributed approximately $12 million.
He lauded the nations participating for having “stepped up” to counter narcotics trafficking and transnational organized crime while responding to the global outbreak.
“We all have the will … and the commitment … and we all know that no one nation can do this alone” he said. “So that’s why we’re here together in the recognition that together we can be stronger than the parts. The magnitude of the threats that face us demands it.”
SOUTHCOM sponsors CENTSEC annually to facilitate an open and candid dialogue between the region’s security leaders. As participants share security cooperation ideas, perspectives, expertise and experiences, they also improve their collective understanding of regional threats and security challenges. The work completed during the conference helps participating leaders define how their defense and public security forces will work collaboratively to enhance security and stability in the region.