By Dialogo February 17, 2011 Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom announced the cancellation of a purchase of 3,000 Israeli rifles for the local police on 14 February, following questions raised in Congress about overpricing and that they would be an “experiment,” since only around one hundred have been sold worldwide. Colom apologized to the Israeli government for the canceled contract and criticized members of Congress who questioned the acquisition of the ACE-31 rifles. He explained that he rescinded the contract due to “spurious business and political interests (that) have unleashed a campaign of disinformation and manipulation, sowing doubts in the process.” “In order to guarantee that this purchase is absolutely transparent and does not lend itself to manipulation, I have requested that the OAS accompany this process step by step,” he added. Several congressional deputies questioned the purchase of the rifles from the firm Israel Weapon Industries because they have not been tested and only around one hundred of them have been sold worldwide, meaning that the Guatemalan police would serve as an experiment. In addition, they complained of overpricing in the purchase of the ACE-31 models, valued at 6.8 million dollars, since another firm offered the same quantity of AK-47s for 4.7 million dollars.
By Dialogo March 04, 2011 The Armed Forces of Colombia have made an excellent campaign to preserve the environment, especially in the moors and natural parks. Such work I am told is being carried out in the Sumapaz moor, which is two hours from the Colombian capital, where the civilian population is also involved in the endeavor. In this way, they meet goals of bringing the community closer together in jobs oriented towards maintaining the ecosystem. A PERUVIAN ARMY OFFICER SUGGESTS THAT THE CURRENT ORGANIZATION NOMINATE AN ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR, ONE DOES NOT EXIST AS OF NOW. CONGRATULATIONS FOR THE WORK DONE IN THIS FIELD THAT CONCERNS THE WHOLE WORLD. Could you please explain in general terms how the plan was developed? Regarding efforts to raise awareness about the environment, what are you doing to publicize this work abroad? What is your department’s budget for conservation and environmental improvements? In October 2010, the National Army held its First International Conference, “Protecting the Environment and Biodiversity.” The goal was to let the private and government sectors know about the military’s progress in environmental management, in addition to different branches of the military, the National Police and national, regional and local environmental agencies. This created a space for discussing the role of the National Army in protecting the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources. During the conference, we exchanged experiences with guests from the United States Army, the Brazilian Army, and the Mexican Department of Defense, and we achieved closer relationships with environmental authorities. In order to strengthen the institutional management system, we have executed Inter-Agency Agreements with environmental agencies, such as the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales – IDEAM). Under that agreement, we were able to place one weather station in each of four high mountain battalions. These stations are, for the most part, situated at altitudes of over 3,600 meters above sea level. Another weather station is located in the Department of Tolima. This equipment is used to monitor the country’s climate. We also executed Agreement No. 021 of 2009 with the District Secretary of the Environment in Bogotá, which is intended to have Instruction, Training and Retraining Battalion 13, in the municipality of Usme, recover and restore ecological balance by eradicating the exotic invading species known as the common gorse [Ulex europaeus], in order to maintain biodiversity in this plateau ecosystem. The idea started as an important institutional policy that was designed to implement the “2005-2010 Strategic Environmental Plan.” The goal of that plan was institutional improvement on environmental issues and to establish mechanisms and actions, uniting all the efforts from different environmental authorities, in order to develop an efficient management system. What effect have the measures adopted by the Environmental Management Offices had with regard to the war on drugs? What projects are currently most important? How many environmental management offices does the Colombian National Army currently have? The offices perform a fundamental task in the front lines of the battle the Army is waging on drug trafficking. In 2010, we destroyed 16,996 hectares of illegal crops through manual eradication. Last year, military personnel in different units deployed throughout the country also seized a total of five tons of cocaine, 14 tons of cocaine base, one ton of speedballs and 33 tons of marijuana. They also found 991,191 gallons of liquid raw material and 302,822 kilos of solid precursor chemicals. We have developed recycling and reforestation projects under the Armed Forces agreement with the National Learning Bureau [Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje – SENA], which has trained more than 150 professional soldiers as technicians to manage plateaus and cloud forests. We have also been conducting studies together with the Ministry of Environmental Affairs to develop a program at the Communication and Directorate for waste management regarding electronics and electrical appliances [Residuos de Aparatos Eléctricos y Electrónicos – RAEE] and batteries by implementing reverse logistics. This project entered the testing phase in 2010, and in 2011 we hope to be collecting and disassembling batteries at all military units. The environmental offices’ initial achievements were reflected in the efforts to train the soldiers of the High Mountain Battalions. That training was conducted in conjunction with the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, National Unit of Natural Parks, and the regional bodies. What academic training is provided by this division? Where does the Directorate of Ecosystems and Environmental Management fit into the overall structure of the Colombian National Army, and what is the directorate’s main purpose? The plan was developed with a desire to consolidate the environmental culture existing in the Army, which would cover all levels, educating officers, NCOs, soldiers and civilians, through academies and training opportunities. This plan is comprised of two parts. The first part is directed at educating military personnel and includes training on creating and launching environmental offices in each unit, as well as training within the unit on our agreement with the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, Regional Autonomous Bodies, and the National Unit of Natural Parks. The second part is to conduct environmental audits that will reveal our strengths and weaknesses in this area, and to perform the necessary follow-up. The plan is updated annually through the Armed Forces Action Plan, which includes and assigns tasks in this area that are carried out not only by the environmental offices but also with support from other agencies, such as Comprehensive Action [Acción Integral], Human Rights, Operations, Intelligence and Logistics. When will you start to see the first results? The Colombian National Army Command issued its first set of directives on environmental preservation and conservation in 1998. Over the next decade, the Army opened environmental offices at the division and brigade levels, under the Corps of Engineers, to coordinate work effectively with the national and regional environmental authorities. The offices also were charged with implementing measures to prevent, mitigate, control and pay compensation for any adverse effects on environmental resources. Major General Alejandro Navas Ramos commands the Colombian National Army. Under his orders the Army continues to implement new environmental strategies. Staff from the Directorate of Ecosystems and Environmental Management at the Headquarters for the Army Corp of Military Engineers granted an interview to “Diálogo” and explained the key role the environmental offices play. Significant resources have been allocated to cover environmental projects. This is important evidence of the Army Command’s policy. During this year, we invested $2.2 billion pesos to improve the basic sanitation systems at the units, including maintenance for water pipes, sewers and networks, to minimize and control our impact on the water sources that flow through the military units’ facilities. Additionally, in 2010, we invested $280 million pesos in research to develop environmental management plans in the aviation units, as well as $183 million pesos invested in training and $40 million pesos in advertising materials.” Initially, we opened 28 environmental management offices in the brigades. Today there are offices for eight Divisions, the Aviation Division, the 35 Brigades, the seven High Mountain Battalions and 28 Army Instruction and Training Battalions. Can you address some of the advances in establishing the environmental programs? Why did the Colombian National Army decide to create these specialized environmental offices? The units have made great strides in implementing the programs, such as planting 18,913 individual trees of different native species. They have also started and maintained 29 vegetable gardens in different units, and they have recovered 43,300 kilograms of recyclable material, such as paper, plastic, glass, aluminum and scrap metal. In 2008, the Army issued Order No. 0014, creating the Headquarters for the Corps of Military Engineers within the Army’s organizational structure. Under headquarters, the Order created the Directorate of Ecosystems and Environmental Management, whose purpose is to direct the armed forces’ environmental policies. In order to conduct its operations, the directorate consists of four areas: ecosystems, environmental remediation, environmental education, and environmental law. In addition, the directorate offers training in the following areas, among others: protection of hydrographic basins and water resources; management of natural resources; control of illegal traffic in wild species; waste management; environmental legislation; and strategic ecosystems. In 2010, we created four certificate programs for 197 members of the military that covered subjects such as Environmental Management, Environmental Management in High Mountain Battalions and Training Battalions, and the Operation of Treatment Plants. In the same way, the major, minor and tactical operating units have held education and training sessions in coordination with regional environmental authorities and the Territorial Directorates of National Natural Parks. This training has been provided to more than 5,676 persons, including officers, NCOs, soldiers and civilians through academies, under the aegis of the Directorate of Ecosystems and Environmental Management at the Headquarters of the Army Corps of Military Engineers.
On 16 March, the Mexican government confirmed that U.S. unarmed pilotless aircraft (drones) have flown over its territory in order to gather intelligence information on organized crime, in actions under Mexican control and in compliance with domestic law. “The Mexican government, on specific occasions and in relation to specific events, has requested from the United States government the support of unmanned aircraft in order to obtain specific items” of security information, the Mexican National Security Council, a government body, announced in a statement. The overflights have taken place “particularly in the border area,” and their “objectives, the information to be collected, and the specific tasks to be carried out have been under the control of Mexican authorities,” the council affirmed. These actions have “a basis in” Mexican “federal law,” it emphasized. The U.S. daily the New York Times revealed on 16 March that Washington had begun to send drones, already used along the two countries’ shared border, into Mexican territory for intelligence actions against Mexico’s powerful drug cartels, at Mexico’s request and under its direction. The newspaper said that U.S. President Barack Obama and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderón, formally agreed on these high-altitude flights at a meeting held on 3 March, but that they kept them secret due to their possible political and legal implications. By Dialogo March 18, 2011
A former top Bolivian anti-drug official pleaded guilty on 23 June to charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States in a case that has proved a major embarrassment for Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. Retired General Rene Sanabria is a former head of Bolivia’s leading counternarcotics unit. The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami said he was director of an anti-drugs intelligence unit attached to Bolivia’s Interior Ministry when he was arrested in February in Panama and deported to Miami. He had faced a life sentence if found guilty in a trial. Sentencing was set for September 2. U.S. prosecutors accuse Sanabria of providing safe passage for cocaine shipments from Bolivia, the world’s No. 3 producer, to the United States through neighboring Chile. Sanabria pleaded guilty along with an associate, Marcelo Foronda, Sanabria’s lawyer, Sabrina Puglisi, said. Sanabria’s arrest followed a sting operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). According to American officials, a test shipment was arranged last year and a group led by Foronda shipped up to 144 kilograms of cocaine to Miami hidden in a cargo container containing zinc rocks. The container traveled overland from Bolivia to a Chilean port, the officials said. The case triggered political shock waves in Bolivia and led Morales, a leftist, to order a shake-up of his top security officials earlier this year. A vocal U.S. critic, Morales expelled the DEA from Bolivia in 2008, accusing its agents of spying and conspiring against his government. Morales, a former coca leaf farmer leader, says he opposes cocaine trafficking but supports the harvesting of the leaf, which Bolivians use in rituals and chew for its medical and nutritional properties. Morales frequently promotes coca’s health benefits and encourages legal uses for its leaves, including promoting a new energy drink produced in Bolivia. But Washington has accused him of not doing enough to fight drug traffickers, and the United Nations has said coca growing eventually used in drug production has expanded in recent years. By Dialogo June 28, 2011 Itâ€™s good to consider this article, but its also good to make some clarifications, the person in question is not a soldier, but a policemen who was carrying out intelligence services for Moralesâ€™s government, from whom today we only hear a sequence of lamentations against Chile and the USA, due to something that surely his collaborators are advising him about; his security. For that reason his trips abroad have been suspended along with the trips of his closer collaborators. There is no solution; the nation is facing a possible Bolivarian drug state of great proportions that is beginning to affect the security of its neighbors. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re asking for help from international diplomatists. Apparently he had forgotten about his demagogic song of sovereignty and anti-imperialism; his cry of battle in the Chapar was always â€œViva la coca, gringos dieâ€, now he is changing directions Why? What is he afraid of? If there is fear, it is because his government is compromised by drug traffickingâ€¦ I think it is time to be truefull about the presence of FARC and its involvement in drug trafficking, the presence of Libyans and other members of Brazilian shacks for example, or maybe the presence of Mexican cartels like the Zetas. Anyway, the diplomatic turn over is not casual, as neither the fear of several compatriots which say that history will repeat itself the same as for Noriega in Panama. I want to believe that all will be clear soon and Bolivia will be the same as before, peaceful, cordial, calm and especially gentle. Bolivians are now aware of the direction that the denominated plural government of the 21st century is taking. It is not flattering to live in anxiety and uncertainty and I believe that our Chilean brothers have already given the camapanzo.
The U.S. government is committed to pursuing al-Qaida and its military allies around the world and works closely with international partners in that effort, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and others have said that al-Qaida is faltering but remains dangerous, Little told reporters, and the terrorist organization “has affiliates in other parts of the world, [including] Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.” The United States must keep pressure on al-Qaida in Pakistan, he added. “We have to find ways of thwarting the ability of other al-Qaida groups to plan and execute attacks against the United States and our allies,” Little said. Many countries around the world are working to pursue the same goal as the United States, which is to find and disrupt al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, the press secretary said. “We believe that forging close partnerships in the terrorism arena is an essential part of the war against terrorists,” Little added. In Afghanistan, he said, progress has been made against the Taliban and related groups like al-Qaida and the Haqqani network. “[The International Security Assistance Force] and the Afghan government over the past several months have evicted the Taliban from most of their important sanctuaries in Helmand and Kandahar,” Little said. The coalition has inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and made it more difficult for the group to mount large-scale offensives, he added. “Our allies have increased their commitments,” he said, “and we’re working with them to help stabilize parts of the country.” The Afghan people are fighting and dying for their country, Little noted, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools and trying to turn the page on decades of war. “The Afghan security forces have grown by more than 100,000 troops, and … we’re beginning to transition responsibility for security in some provinces to the Afghan people,” he said. The coalition aims for a secure and increasingly self-reliant Afghanistan that’s free of al-Qaida safe havens, Little said, “and the transition process will help get us there.” By Dialogo September 26, 2011
Ever more frequent seizures of chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico and Central America are evidence that the drug traffickers who move drugs from that region to the United States are becoming producers, according to experts and authorities. In Mexico, “a shift in the criminal organizations’ business, toward producing synthetic drugs,” is underway, General Ricardo Trevilla, a spokesperson for the Mexican Secretariat of Defense, emphasized in a recently released report. Mexican authorities have not revealed production figures, but seizures of synthetic drugs and chemical precursors for their production are ever more frequent, as are discoveries of clandestine laboratories. During 2011, Mexico seized more than 1,200 tons of chemicals intended for the manufacture of amphetamine-type synthetic drugs, such as monomethylamine, a chemical precursor derived from ammonia. “Synthetic drugs represent a very attractive opportunity for criminal organizations because, unlike natural drugs, they can be produced anywhere, once the organization has access to the chemical precursors and basic know-how,” Antonio Mazzitelli, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime director for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, told AFP. The expert added that these drugs can be sent to consumption locations at a very low cost. In Guatemala, where cartels have already established themselves, security forces intercepted 30 tons of chemical products in 2011, and 6 tons have already been seized so far in 2012, according to official figures. In the United States, the form of methamphetamine known as ‘meth’ or ‘crystal,’ which has devastating effects, has displaced cocaine and heroin among the poorest users. This accessibly priced and highly addictive drug can generate mental disturbances such as schizophrenia or paranoia and contributes to the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, experts indicate. By Dialogo February 06, 2012
By Dialogo August 27, 2013 SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Dominican authorities seized 680 kilograms of cocaine and arrested two Colombians as they tried to leave the country, capping one of the most significant drug seizures in months in the Caribbean nation. The National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD) said on Aug. 24 it arrested Edmundo Rafael Fernández Olaya and Lian Lsbyn Lubo Larrada at the international airport outside Santo Domingo as they prepared to board a flight back to their home country. The two men were the alleged leaders of a criminal network that tried to smuggle narcotics by boat into the Dominican Republic. Outside the airport, DNCD agents arrested three Dominicans – Augusto “Vitico” Ruiz Mella, Danilito Urbáez Sánchez and Yenifer Rosalia Zorilla Alcántara – who allegedly had accompanied the Colombians to the airport. The arrests marked the culmination of an operation that dismantled a network of alleged traffickers – eight others had been previously arrested – and seized a large amount of cocaine, the DNCD said in a prepared statement. The drug shipments were discovered starting on Aug. 14, when counter-narcotics authorities found 343 packets of cocaine hidden near the small, southeastern fishing village of Boca de Yuma. “It was determined that a band of drug traffickers in the eastern part of the country was receiving drugs coming from South America aboard speedboats,” the DNCD said in a prepared statement. Three days later, an operation involving the Dominican Army, Air Force, Navy and the DNCD discovered 316 more packets of cocaine hidden in a cave in a national park that was part of the same shipment. Shortly after the first shipment was seized, authorities arrested eight people they alleged were accomplices: Alberto de los Santos Rodríguez, Anyiro Israel Tavarez Berroa, Luis Francisco Silverio Berroa, José Sánchez, Félix Antonio Inoa Domínguez, Viterbo Jiménez Flores, Ernesto García and Manuel Emilio Cedeño. The suspects allegedly were part of what the DNCD described as part of a “powerful organization” headed by Colombians and Venezuelans. The seizure also marked the first major bust for the DNCD under the direction of Maj. Gen. Julio César Souffront Velázquez, who was appointed its chief by President Danilo Medina in June. “The cartels continue working here and the Caribbean corridor continues being very active,” Souffront Velázquez said. The Caribbean is a route used by “the remnants of cartels, like the [Colombian] North Valley cartel and the violent Sinaloa cartel” from Mexico. Dominican Republic is on pace to surpass its annual drug seizure record of 8,300 kilograms, which it set last year. [Infosurhoy.com (Dominican Republic), 26/08/2013; DNCD (Dominican Republic), 24/08/2013]
By Carolina Contreras/Diálogo February 07, 2017 More than 10,000 kilometers separate Chile and the Central African Republic, a huge distance that will soon be covered in just seconds thanks to a modern satellite communications platform. The Chilean Army Telecommunications Command recently received a new Mobile Emergency Response Center (MERC), donated by the U.S. government through the Global Peace Operations Initiative of the State Department and U.S. Southern Command. “It is interesting technological equipment that will give us tremendous operational communications capacities,” said Colonel Gonzalo Cañas, chief of Communications of the Chilean Army Telecommunications Command. The donation was made within the framework of the two countries’ joint peace operations participation, in particular the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA, per its French acronym), in effect since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2149 in 2014. The resolution addresses the country’s serious humanitarian and security crisis. This donation “to the Chilean Armed Forces is in recognition of their support for other countries around the world,” said U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Carol Z. Pérez, on December 2nd, during the official donation ceremony held at the Army Telecommunications Command facilities. MERC is a telecommunications center valued at $900,000 and designed in accordance with mission-critical standards to operate in areas without any communication infrastructure. It is composed of three mobile units. Each unit includes radio systems, IP telephones, satellite telephones, and laptop computers. This allows linking of different communication platforms both within the work area and the rest of the world. “The idea is that the Chilean Armed Forces will have the technology to communicate on land,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Rodríguez, bilateral affairs officer for the Security Cooperation Office in Santiago. Chile joined MINUSCA in February 2016, with the participation of officers representing all three branches of the Armed Forces. On January 19th, the Chilean Parliament approved the country’s participation in these peacekeeping operations for another year as part of the mission in the Central African Republic. The Army plans to incorporate MERC center into this work by 2018. “With this support for the communications capacities of the Army, we will be more efficient in our assigned peacekeeping tasks,” said Col. Cañas. Capacities and training Personnel from the United States manufacturer trained troops from the Army Telecommunications Command to use the new technology. Chilean technicians were able to deploy, operate, and configure the equipment without any issues. Each mobile unit can be deployed and installed in only 30 minutes. The unit is delivered to a command post in an area with existing integrated communications equipment. Each unit consists of a base, an electric generator for the mobile center, a parabolic satellite antenna, and the equipment needed for the center’s launch and maintenance. The MERCs use encrypted communications, state-of-the-art technology that is difficult to be intercepted. They also use an interoperability system known as Mutualink, which can use UHF, VHF, analog, and digital telephony systems, and combine them all to communicate with the outside. “[MERC] is a great tool, a more stable and reliable communications channel to maintain a permanent link,” Col. Cañas said. It also allows for interoperability with other armies, given that the United States has donated the same type of equipment to Peru, Uruguay, and Paraguay. In fact, during the training period, links were tested with the Peruvian Armed Forces group deployed in MINUSCA, which verified its reach and effectiveness. The mobile center is compatible with the Chilean Army’s communications system, which has efficient coverage throughout the entire country. The donation also takes into account that when the MERCs are not deployed in humanitarian assistance operations, they can be used for emergencies during natural disasters in Chile, whether in urban or rural areas. In fact, the U.S. Armed Forces and National Guard use MERCs to communicate with civilian officials during domestic natural disaster or emergency response operations.
By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo November 20, 2017 Brigadier General Hugo Marenco, commander of Air Operations Command of the Uruguayan Air Force (FAU, per its Spanish acronym), has one specific mission: plan and conduct his institution’s air operations. In this task, Brig. Gen. Marenco seeks to establish his country’s air force as an international leader. The high degree of training and professionalism of his staff and the upgrade to modern and suitable technological equipment are some of his main challenges.Brig. Gen. Marenco spoke with Diálogo at the South American Air Chiefs Conference at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, October 31st –November 3rd, 2017. In addition to discussing FAU’s challenges, Brig. Gen. Marenco highlighted the role of air forces in natural disasters and regional integration as fundamental tools for humanitarian support.Diálogo: Why is FAU’s participation in this conference important?Brigadier General Marenco, commander of the Air Operations Command of the Uruguayan Air Force: It’s very important to see other nations’ capacities, interact with them, see their experiences and difficulties, and be able to better coordinate our operations in the event of a natural disaster or when humanitarian aid is needed. That is FAU’s main reason to participate in this conference.Diálogo: What is your assessment of the South American air forces’ participation at this conference?Brig. Gen. Marenco: It’s a very welcoming environment, with a lot of camaraderie and very active participation. We share many activities thanks to the System of Cooperation Among American Air Forces (SICOFAA, per its Spanish acronym), and as we forge bonds of friendship we consolidate better coordination among air forces.Diálogo: Why is cooperation among air forces important in responding to regional natural disasters?Brig. Gen. Marenco: It’s a reality. We are faced every day with natural disasters of greater magnitude, and being prepared as an Air Force and as a nation to deliver humanitarian aid is crucial to us. It’s essential for all nations in the region to be able to deliver aid and receive it when needed. It’s important to make the most of SICOFAA’s capacities. In our country, for instance, overflowing rivers and streams are more frequent and the Uruguayan Air Force works on these problems day to day.Diálogo: What is Uruguay’s level of participation in SICOFAA?Brig. Gen. Marenco: The FAU has been part of SICOFAA since its creation in 1965. We participate in all committees, we’ve hosted some of them, and we hope to continue to participate in the same way. SICOFAA is a sound cooperation tool for disaster response situations.Diálogo: What are the FAU’s capabilities?Brig. Gen. Marenco: FAU is a small air force, from a small country, but it can connect and interact with SICOFAA. Our Air Force took part in a mission to Ecuador in April 2016, in response to the earthquake. Our C-130 aircraft operated for about 15 days in the city of Manta, Ecuador, and brought humanitarian aid to the cities of Guayaquil, Quito, and Manta. The Air Force uses the capacities that SICOFAA provides, and allow us to interact with other nations and deliver aid to areas that require it.Diálogo: What is the significance of FAU’s and Uruguay’s participation in this kind of regional cooperation among air forces?Brig. Gen. Marenco: It’s very important, due to the capacities integrated. No nation has every capacity or can provide all the aid needed when large-scale natural disasters strike.Diálogo: How does FAU collaborate with other air forces in the region?Brig. Gen. Marenco: We have close relations with all nations of America and especially with those of South America. We have great relations with our nearest neighbors, such as the Argentine and Brazilian air forces. We work in a very coordinated way with common objectives. We support our neighbors and allies with aid whenever requested.Diálogo: How does FAU collaborate with the other branches of Uruguay’s Armed Forces?Brig. Gen. Marenco: We work in a coordinated way. The new law of 2010 within the defense framework consolidated the creation of the new joint command bodies, to which the Air Force belongs.Diálogo: What is your main challenge?Brig. Gen. Marenco: My main challenge in this position is to maintain our crews and staff trained so they can fulfill the missions our nation needs. I want us to be able to support neighboring countries when they need us. Our motto is “Aviation at the Forefront of the Nation,” which means that we move forward with our nation’s challenges. Likewise, we work on modernizing our aerial equipment—which already counts many years of service and is difficult to maintain—as we seek to meet our nation’s needs.Diálogo: What is the level of female participation in FAU?Brig. Gen. Marenco: Our Air Force was one of the first in Latin America to admit female personnel into its officer training school. The first admissions to the air force academy were in 1997. FAU counts about 2,500 personnel, of which 400 are officers and 2,100 are enlisted. Of that number, about eight percent belong to the upper ranks. In the peacekeeping missions under the United Nations mandate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have about 15 percent female personnel.Diálogo: What is your message to the air forces of the region?Brig. Gen. Marenco: FAU is an allied air force. It is small but very professional, and we are willing to build bridges, as we have done traditionally with air forces of Latin America.
By Noelani Kirschner/ShareAmerica May 05, 2020 Hospitals across Venezuela face supply shortages that affect both doctors and patients. According to a national survey conducted on April 2 and certified by the National Assembly, 92 percent of the health sector doesn’t have soap on site. The same survey found that 61 percent doesn’t have face masks, and 79 percent doesn’t have disposable gloves.The National Assembly has voiced its concerns in a statement, saying, “The sentinel hospitals where 60 percent of the cases of coronavirus in Venezuela are concentrated are not in condition to care for the patients infected by COVID-19.” Sentinel hospitals are selected to collect data in an area with a high probability of encountering cases of a disease.On a health ministry website, Nicolás Maduro listed 46 medical centers his regime claimed were “prepared” to receive COVID-19 patients, according to a Reuters report.Now, he and his allies are punishing journalists, doctors, and National Assembly members for speaking out against the substandard state of medical infrastructure in their country.A freelance Venezuelan journalist, Darvinson Rojas, tweeted March 20 about the discrepancy between the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the Maduro regime and the number reported by hospitals and journalists.One day later, Rojas was arrested by Maduro’s special police force, which claimed it received an anonymous tip that Rojas had been diagnosed with COVID-19, even though he had not, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. His parents were also detained and questioned by police but eventually released the same night.Upon release, Rojas’ father told a local reporter he could hear police questioning his son about his March 20 reporting on COVID-19 statistics.Rojas was finally released on April 2 with restrictions on his freedom, according to media reports in Venezuela.Similarly, Dr. Rubén Duarte posted a video on social media asking the Maduro regime for equipment so his hospital could meet minimum health codes to treat coronavirus patients. In retaliation the Maduro regime’s counterintelligence agency detained Duarte.National Assembly member Tony Geara tweeted that a local hospital in a southern state of Venezuela didn’t have running water. Police responded by searching his house for four hours. Maduro’s secret service then arrested him while he was preparing to bring food to a neighbor in need, according to the National Assembly.On March 31 the U.S. government released a plan for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela. As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained, “The urgency for this has become all the more serious in light of the Maduro regime’s failure to adequately prepare for and address the global COVID-19 pandemic.”