By Dialogo June 11, 2009 TUMACO, Colombia – United States military and interagency personnel, non-governmental agency volunteers and partner nation representatives currently assigned to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) are offering a variety of free medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and educational services here as part of Continuing Promise 2009 (CP09). CP09 is a four-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission through Latin America and the Caribbean. Comfort is scheduled to be in Tumaco until June 17 when it will travel to El Salvador and then Nicaragua. Comfort’s crew offers community members services such as teeth cleanings and extractions, eye exams and glasses and adult and pediatric medical exams. Surgical screenings have also been performed and more than 200 surgical procedures have been scheduled. Surgeries began today. Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Leslye Ruiz, a preventive medicine technician aboard Comfort, has been conducting health assessment questionnaires. “We’re trying to assess the needs of the people here in Tumaco so that we know exactly what they need on the next Continuing Promise mission,” she said. Most medical services are being performed at the temporary medical site at the Max Seidel school. However, the ship is equipped with five operating rooms, 250 patient beds, x-ray machines, a CAT scan unit and pharmacy among other services for those patients being treated on board. “I work in the intensive care on the ship performing post-surgical care for patients,” said Leading Seaman Robert Morgan, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces currently assigned aboard Comfort. “When I’m not working on the ship, I’m at the medical sites working with the public. My time in Tumaco has been very good. This has been a very different experience for me – I’ve never been out in this part of the world before. This has been a real eye-opening and rewarding experience for me,” she said.
By Dialogo July 02, 2009 San José del Guaviare (Colombia), June 30 (EFE).- The eleven police and military personnel rescued from the hands of the FARC by the Colombian army in what is known as Jaque Operation returned today to the place from which they were flown to freedom a year ago. Today the seven members of the military and the four police officers who were rescued together with Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. contractors on 2 July 2008 went back in time on their route a year ago: a helicopter took them from the southern town of San José del Guaviare to the jungle that was once their prison. They landed in the jungle region known as Lisonda, the location of the successful conclusion of Jaque Operation, an undercover military operation that made it possible to deceive the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which had held them prisoner for years. The guerillas “had us in a cellar,” EFE was told by Sgt. Amaón Flórez, who like the rest of his fellow captives and their rebel captors thought that the two helicopters he saw on 2 July, 2008 belonged to a humanitarian mission. “First they told us that it was about medical attention; we thought that it was (to go) to a neighboring country,” Sgt. Erasmo Romero explained. “We had been hungry for days, without medicine, chained up all the time,” Romero added. “None of us thought that this would be the day on which we were going to recover our freedom,” Maj. Juan Carlos Bermeo told EFE, for whom the rescue operation “was a big surprise, something unexpected that makes you want to live again.” Sgt. José Ricardo Marulanda never dreamed of an operation of such magnitude. As a member of the military, he was thinking about a rescue “by land,” something by “guns and bloodshed.” A year ago, “we were locked in a cage and tied up,” Marulanda recalled today. They all got on the helicopter that took them to freedom unwillingly and with their hands tied, according to Flórez, who recalled in detail that “seven seconds” into the flight two of the members of the undercover military mission subdued their jailers “César” and “Gafas.” “That is unforgettable,” Flórez said today as he expressed his gratitude toward those who got them out of that jungle that was “consuming” them “little by little.” “I leave here relieved,” he added, because after today “what was bad will stay here,” in the jungle, and “the good impetus for moving forward” after years of being kidnapped will remain alive. Before their return to the jungle accompanied by several high-ranking military commanders, the eleven former hostages of the FARC visited the hangars where the army keeps one of the two helicopters used in Jaque Operation, in the town of Tolemaida. In those hangars the helicopters were painted white, and every detail was gone over to make sure they showed no sign of military origin, Maj. Carlos Arbeláez explained to the group of reporters who traveled to the settings of Jaque Operation along with the hostages today. It was in the same location that intelligence planning for the rescue operation took place and where it was determined how to neutralize the guerrillas in the helicopter, Arbeláez indicated. The first anniversary of the rescue, considered a masterpiece of military intelligence, takes place on Thursday, and according to military sources, the eleven former hostages will attend an official ceremony in Bogotá, at which neither Betancourt, nor Americans Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes are expected to participate. “It would be good to all be reunited,” Sergeant Flórez limited himself to commenting on the subject. While the three Americans have published a book about their experiences during more than five years of captivity, the former presidential candidate is preparing a publication expected to come out shortly.
By Dialogo April 15, 2010 Haitian President Rene Preval pledged in an interview with AFP to hold elections this year despite the massive difficulties of organizing a successful poll in his quake-devastated country. Legislative polls, originally set for February and March, were postponed after the January 12 earthquake that demolished the capital Port-au-Prince, killing more than 220,000 people and leaving 1.3 million Haitians homeless. Preval, who also served as president from 1996 to 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third mandate. His current term expires in February 2011 and presidential elections are expected in December, though no firm date has been announced. Preval told AFP on Monday that he asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “to send a technical team to evaluate the possibility to have elections with international standards in order for them to be credible.” Elections were important in order to “not leave a political vacuum” at the end of his mandate, he said. In the interview Preval urged Haitians to be patient during the reconstruction process. “This is the best way to help us help them,” he said.
Insurgents will face a more difficult spring than in previous years as Afghan and coalition forces consolidate and expand on last year’s gains. Much progress has been made by Afghan and coalition forces in securing Afghanistan over the last several months, including dramatic changes in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, said Rear Adm. Greg Smith, communications director for the International Security Assistance Force. “Sixty to 80 percent of the improvised explosive devices they place are found before they explode,” said Smith. “Between 100 to 130 weapons caches are found every week in southern Afghanistan.” Security gains in the south are leading Afghan civilians to return to areas once controlled by the Taliban, said Smith. On 23 January, residents of Arghandab district, Kandahar province, returned to their homes after Afghan and coalition forces cleared the Taliban out of the area. “Helping the residents back into the village is a huge victory,” Capt. Walter Tompkins, commander, Company B, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, was quoted as saying in a 29 January news release from the ISAF Joint Command. Tompkins was among those assisting Afghans in their return to Arghandab. “Not only does it show huge gains in perception of security, but also presents a great opportunity to truly partner with the residents of the village,” Tompkins said. The partnership between ISAF and Afghan forces is one of many concerns the insurgents have as they continue to fight through the winter and into spring, according to Smith. Various intelligence sources and detained fighters indicate that the insurgency is feeling the pressure of the renewed southern offensive. Their finances are dwindling and munitions are becoming hard to acquire. Insurgent groups are also worried about the growth of Afghan forces and the development of Afghan local police. They have also lost access to areas they once occupied and are concerned they will not regain those areas in the spring, said Smith. “The fighting season in 2011 will not be like any previous fighting season for the insurgent group,” said Smith. “The insurgents will be facing 100,000 more Afghan and coalition security forces than they did the year before.” Afghan police will man more than 30 southern districts this spring, whereas there were no police in the same districts last spring. Some areas that were once insurgent strongholds are no longer welcoming the Taliban. These successes, while promising, do not suggest the war is won or victory is near, cautioned Smith. Afghan and coalition forces still need to secure some substantial parts of the country’s south. “Northern Helmand province continues to be the most dangerous area in Afghanistan,” said Smith. By Dialogo February 03, 2011
By Dialogo March 23, 2011 Soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas field-tested the newest equipment for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear reconnaissance during an exercise 28 Feb. – 4 March. The new M1135 NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle, a Stryker-platform vehicle capable of detecting and identifying chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, commonly referred to as CBRN, hazards, was used by Soldier of the 181st CBRN Company. They also field-tested the new Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits and Outfits, or DRSKO. Outwardly the modular DRSKO looks like an unmarked storage container. But equipment inside allows Soldiers to detect and identify CBRN hazards as well as toxic industrial chemicals and materials. It also contains a variety of protective suits and equipment for decontamination, sample collection, marking contaminated areas, and hazard reporting. “The equipment we have is an extreme improvement over what’s been around in the past,” said 1st Lt. Jaciel Guerrero, the 3rd Platoon leader, 181st CBRN Company. “Not only do we have the capabilities to detect conventional weapons of mass destruction, normal chemical agents, biological, radiological and nuclear agents, but now we can detect a lot of the industrial chemicals and industrial materials you may find anywhere, no matter what country or what region you’re in.” The NBC RV Stryker, unlike its predecessor the M93A1 Fox, provides protection from small arms fire, houses a remote weapons system which enables the platoon to provide its own security, and has equipment that allows the Soldiers inside to collect samples without ever getting out of the vehicle. “It’s not just a chemical vehicle,” said Sgt. Dustin Goldman, an NBC RV truck commander with 4th Platoon of the 181st CBRN Co. “It’s a combat vehicle with chemical capabilities.” In the past year, the 181st CBRN Company has conducted various training on the equipment in locations such as Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. After a six-month fielding process, it was the first chemical unit to use the new equipment in a practical field exercise. “Everyday’s a learning process for us,” said Spc. Eric Klopp, a surveyor with 4th Platoon, 181st CBRN Co. “We might find a mistake here and there in our training methods and we correct them on the spot. There isn’t really a general set [Standard Operating Procedure] on this piece of equipment yet, so we are kind of creating our own as we go.” As Soldiers of the mounted reconnaissance platoon trained with the NBC RV, the Soldiers of the 3rd Platoon, 181st CBRN Co., the dismounted reconnaissance platoon, conducted sensitive site assessments with the DRSKO. “Not only are we a platoon that can deal with emergency situations, but we can also help civil affairs,” said Guerrero.”(If) you have a village where people are maybe getting sick and showing symptoms of certain types of chemicals or materials that may be toxic to a human, we can go out there, we can test water, we can test soil. We can test the walls inside of a building; pretty much anything the person may have come in contact with.” After training separately for a few days with their new equipment, the platoons were ready to work together on a mission, which culminated the last day of the exercise. Through the training, Soldiers not only gained valuable knowledge and experience from using the new equipment, but also insight into what it’s like to be on the cutting edge of CBRN reconnaissance technology. “The challenge is to field the new equipment and to make sure that all the Soldiers are constantly trained on the most cutting-edge technology that the Chemical Corps has to offer,” Brown said.
The Louisiana National Guard-led task force providing humanitarian relief to Haiti officially ended its two-month mission in a small ceremony in Port-Au-Prince. Task Force Bon Voizen — translated “good neighbor” — provided medical, dental and veterinary care to more than 2,100 animals and 32,000 people. Its engineers built a three-room school, two medical clinics and restroom facilities. This year’s exercise marked the second time the Louisiana National Guard was called upon to lead humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake. More than 2,300 servicemembers from three countries came together in the Artibonite department, a rural area 70 miles northwest of Port-Au-Prince. Col. Kenneth Donnelly, the task force commander, called the mission a life-changing experience, and praised the efforts of the troops who deployed here to work in austere conditions. “The Soldiers, Airmen and Marines of the task force are regular people, with regular jobs back in their hometowns and duty stations.” Donnelly said. “They came to give instead of take. They came to act instead of talk.” Support for the task force came from National Guard troops from several states including Louisiana, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida and North Dakota. The Army Reserve provided medical staff and engineers. The active-duty Army supplied communications troops, the Air Force provided meteorologists and the Marine Corps provided civil affairs specialists. The task force also was supported by physicians from the Colombian and Canadian armies and engineers from the Belize Defence Force. Japanese engineers also helped to build the school, and U.N. peacekeeping forces from Argentina provided security at task force medical and dental clinics. By Dialogo June 28, 2011
Sao Paulo police are concerned about possible terrorist attacks during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and are bracing for a high risk scenario, the local Federal Police chief said. “We are in charge of the security of foreign officials. There is great concern about terrorist attacks. We are taking very strong preventive measures,” Roberto Troncon told the daily Folha de Sao Paulo. The Federal Police chief in Sao Paulo, one of 12 Brazilian cities that will host the World Cup, said terrorists might take advantage of the tournament to attack foreign delegations rather than Brazilian targets. “We want to prepare for a scenario where the risk is rather high,” he added. Troncon said preventive measures include migration control. Brazil is also to host the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013 and the Summer Olympics in 2016. Brazilian authorities are racing to build or renovate stadiums, improve transportation and modernize airports to welcome thousands of tourists in the cities where World Cup games will be played. By Dialogo November 21, 2011
Colombian and Ecuadorean defense ministers Juan Carlos Pinzón and Javier Ponce, respectively, reviewed security along their shared border at a meeting held from January 12 to 13 in the Colombian town of Villa de Leyva, the ministry in Bogotá announced. The Ecuadorean Minister of Security Coordination, Vice Admiral Homero Arellano Lascano; the General Luis Ernesto González, commander of the Ecuadorean Armed Forces; General Alejandro Navas, commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, and high-ranking police commanders from both countries also participated in the meeting. This was the second face-to-face encounter between the ministers, following their participation in the presidential meeting held in the city of Quito, Ecuador, on December 19, a statement by the Colombian Defense Ministry recalled. In addition to evaluating the work of the Bi-National Frontier Commission, the ministers discussed the current situation along the border crossings as well as the fight against illegal mining along the 586 km border the neighboring countries share, reported the Colombian Ministry of Defense The ministerial meeting also took place subsequent to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s acknowledgement on January 6 of his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos’s will to improve bilateral ties, which were reestablished in November 2009 after having been broken off on account of a military attack on the FARC Colombian guerrilla group on Ecuadorean territory. That incursion, which left 25 dead (including that rebel group’s second-ranking leader, Raúl Reyes), was authorized by Santos, who at the time was defense minister in Álvaro Uribe’s administration (2002-2010). “We have to recognize a clear will (on Santos’s part) to completely normalize” ties, Correa told the press during a visit to the Andean city of Tulcán (in northern Ecuador), on the border with Colombia. On December 24, Correa described the situation on the Colombian border as “the most serious security problem the country has” and indicated that it is a border “teeming with organized crime, drug trafficking, irregular groups, FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and paramilitaries.” By Dialogo January 13, 2012
By Dialogo November 05, 2012 U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Army South personnel escorted the commanding general of Colombia’s Military Forces and a delegation of public and private Colombian leaders as they visited Brooke Army Medical Center’s Center for the Intrepid, the Fisher House Foundation and the Warrior and Family Support Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on October 24-25. The two-day visit was designed to highlight the value of the Center for the Intrepid in treating our wounded warriors and to allow the delegation to gain an understanding of the role the U.S. private sector plays in supporting and caring for our wounded warriors, said Colonel Jaime Henry, a Colombian foreign liaison officer assigned to U.S. Army South. Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), accompanied General Alejandro Navas, the commanding general of Colombia’s Military forces, and approximately ten other public and private sector leaders as they toured the facilities and attended briefings by staff members. “This visit will afford us an opportunity to share with our guest delegation what we’ve learned from partnering with organizations like the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation in caring for Military members catastrophically disabled or severely injured while serving their country,” said Jorge Silveira, acting director of SOUTHCOM’s Partnering Directorate. “Thanks to this partnership, the Center for the Intrepid has helped more than 780 wounded warriors make remarkable recoveries to remain on active duty or return to civilian life. This visit will afford our guests a chance to see first-hand what can be accomplished for wounded veterans through public-private partnerships and with the caring support of a community of caring citizens.” According to Colombia’s Ministry of Defense website, 483 members of Colombia’s Public Security Forces (which includes Military and police) were killed while serving during 2011 and 2,088 were injured, many of them requiring care similar to what U.S. Soldiers receive after they’re injured in combat. Silveira said it’s important to share ideas, knowledge and experiences with committed partner nation militaries such as Colombia in order to find effective solutions to common problems. “Almost 13,000 Colombian soldiers have been wounded by IEDs since 1996,” said Silveira. “With this visit, we hope to help them get one step closer to realizing their vision of a center fully dedicated to caring, treating and rehabilitating military members who are seriously injured while defending the nation. Through continued engagement and collaboration in this area, we also hope to ensure we can capitalize on the synergies and interoperability of our centers for the good of the patients they care for.”
By Andréa Barretto / Diálogo March 26, 2020 On March 18, 2020, Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) service members deployed near the Brazil-Venezuela border to stop the entry of Venezuelans into Brazil.The soldiers followed the orders of the Brazilian government to partially close the border to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Brazil. The order will remain in place until at least April 2. Only goods will be allowed into the country.On March 19, the Brazilian government also decided to block land borders with eight neighboring countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname. The Federal Police is tasked to enforce the decision, and also counts on EB’s support. The movement restriction applies to the population, not to the transport of goods.Air and maritime borders are also restricted. The entry of foreigners coming from the European Union and China, among other countries, is temporarily prohibited through airports. Cruise boarding and disembarking are also interrupted.The decision regarding tourist cruise ships was made after a passenger tested positive for coronavirus on a ship flying the Bahamian flag that was docked at the port of Recife, in Pernambuco. The ship was detained at the port, and about 600 passengers were kept in isolation on March 12.On March 20, the first group of tourists disembarked with help from the Brazilian Navy’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense. The tourists got off the ship gradually, based on a required screening process. The passengers were taken to the airport to fly back to their countries of origin.Operation COVID-19Border control is only one of the Brazilian Armed Forces’ measures for Operation COVID-19. This operation, launched on March 19, outlines the use of military forces in support of Brazilian health and public security agencies to curb the spread of the virus that has caused the pandemic.Military institutions were required to make their personnel, operations, and logistics resources available. Representatives from the three forces coordinate and plan activities from a Joint Operations Center set up in Brasília.“This is a war. The enemy is invisible, fierce, and determined in its actions. In times of war, the Brazilian people can count on the Armed Forces,” said Brazilian Minister of Defense EB General Fernando Azevedo.FrontlineOn February 26, Brazil had the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Latin America. Since then, most countries in the region have taken rigorous measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in this part of the continent. Border closure was only one of the initial measures.Currently, a majority of the cases are concentrated in Brazil, followed by Ecuador and Chile. Ecuador declared a state of emergency on March 16, with a nighttime curfew for all citizens. During the day, people can leave the house to buy food, medication, and other basic needs. Driving is also limited, and both land and air transportation are banned between the country’s provinces.Chile declared a state of emergency for 90 days, which enabled the government, with help from the Armed Forces, to ban gatherings in public spaces, control the distribution of basic supplies, establish quarantine and a curfew, and limit the transit of people through cities and the country as a whole.