By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo December 12, 2016 Major General Pilot Luis Napoleón Payán Díaz, commander general of the Dominican Republic Air Force (FARD, per its Spanish acronym), met with U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Paul J. Rock Jr., U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) director of Strategy, Policy and Plans (J-5), to boost cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime networks. During his November 11th visit, Brig. Gen. Rock Jr. “familiarized himself with the needs of the Dominican Air Force, focusing on the operations that the military institution has carried out throughout the years in counter-narcotics operations,” FARD Colonel Pilot Regner G. Evins Feliz, aide to Commander General Payán Díaz, told Diálogo. The meeting was held at the Joint Operations Center of the Ministry of Defense in Santo Domingo. The senior military commanders discussed the importance of enhancing the training Dominican pilots receive in the use of night-vision goggles to strengthen nighttime activities against international drug trafficking, illegal migration, and arms smuggling. “The objective is to increase training opportunities for rotary-wing aircraft pilots— whether that is with specialists from the U.S. Army, Air Force, or other regional partners, such as Colombia,” Col. Evins said. “Night-vision technology and instruction is of the utmost importance for the Dominican Air Force, to provide support for the Navy or the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD, per its Spanish acronym) in the fight against drug trafficking, by moving land units during both day and by night,” Col. Evins said. The officers also discussed SOUTHCOM’s Military Assistance Program. The FARD expressed their need to improve maintenance and resource management to increase the operational readiness rate of the Dominican Republic Air Force helicopter fleet. “The performance of the FARD is reduced if they do not have aircraft ready to engage in the flight time required for strong results,” Daniel Pou, associate director of Latin American Social Sciences Institute in the Dominican Republic told Diálogo. The Caribbean country is considered an important transit point for illicit drugs originating in South America. The United States Government, in its 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy report, estimated that approximately six percent of all cocaine brought into the United States and Europe moves through the Dominican Republic. “Since 2008, the Dominican Air Force has impacted deterrence and managed to achieve a reduction in illicit air flights to zero,” Col. Evins said. “The main mission of the Dominican Air Force is to give support to the Dominican Republic’s Navy. Almost 100 percent of the leaders of criminal drug-smuggling organizations have moved to the sea. There are no borders for these organizations.” To strengthen security in the Caribbean country and throughout the region, the FARD is also working jointly with squadrons from other countries through the development of joint interdictions and trainings. These efforts at joint collaboration on regional security between the Dominican Armed Forces, the DNCD and SOUTHCOM are demonstrated through various programs such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. The United States cooperates with the Dominican Armed Forces and the DNCD in several areas by providing support, intelligence, training, and specialized equipment. “Cooperation between the Dominican Republic and the United States in terms of the military is pertinent, especially regarding the area of aeronautics, so the FARD can play a support role in terms of law enforcement,” said Pou “Cooperation is increasingly important because the Dominican Republic is a bridge for all this ill [drug trafficking], which has an impact on society. The main way to have greater effectiveness in combating international drug smuggling is to continue combining efforts, exchanging information, training together, and giving each other support,” said Col. Evins. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Dominican authorities highlighted the commitment of their government and Armed Forces to increase cooperation. “We are committed and we are going to make our best effort so that, by working together, we have the best results in the fight against drug trafficking and other transnational crimes,” concluded Col. Evins.
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo February 23, 2017 The U.S. government donated equipment and tools to the Aerial Surveillance Service (SVA, per its Spanish acronym) of the Costa Rican Ministry of Security, to assist the public in emergencies and to reinforce the fight against organized crime groups that use the country as a staging ground for international drug trafficking. The donation was made by the U.S. Department of Defense through the Embassy of the United States in Costa Rica, within the framework of the cooperation agreements between both countries. The announcement was made public on January 19th during a ceremony held at Juan Santamaría International Airport. The Costa Rican Ministry of Security reports that the aid provided by the U.S. government is valued at more than $1 million. This includes training, an information packet on aviation maintenance, the delivery of specialized maintenance equipment, and replacement parts for the King Air F90 that the Drug Control Police had seized with two tons of cocaine in 2013. Minutes away Starting the last week in February, a team of four SVA officials will train on how to manage their flight hours and flight schedules better and on how to maintain the airplane’s main components. The training will last eight weeks and will be taught by a local Costa Rican company. “The U.S. government’s support is resounding. Now more than ever equipping our security forces is fundamental in the fight that we are waging against organized crime and those groups that introduce drugs into our country,” Costa Rican Security Minister Gustavo Mata Vega told Diálogo. For the first time in the last 30 years, the King Air F90 aerial vehicle has enabled government security personnel to conduct patrols as far as Isla del Coco, “a zone that is exploited not only by drug traffickers, but also by various organizations dedicated to illegal fishing, which is an increasingly big problem for Costa Rica,” Minister Mata stressed. This airplane enables SVA personnel to get to the island in 90 minutes, instead of the 36 hours that the trip takes by boat. The airplane is also a key tool that benefits the Costa Rican people, given that it is actively used for medevac flights around the country. The King Air F90’s pressurized cabin is ideal for transporting patients to specialized medical centers. “This latest assistance [from the U.S.] bolsters our operational capabilities for doing higher speed and longer range air patrols over the open ocean in response to drug trafficking and organized crime in the Pacific zone, as well as for use in humanitarian missions,” SVA’s director, Captain Juan Luis Vargas Castillo, told Diálogo. The United States cooperation is a centerpiece of Costa Rica’s strategy for fighting drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations. Due to the increase in illegal flights over Costa Rica, in September of 2016, U.S. authorities provided a TPS 70 alert radar to detect aircraft making unlawful flights in the northern part of this Central American country. “This system is enormously helpful to the SVA in monitoring our airspace. Its installation was made possible thanks to the effort of the Ministry of Security to stamp out activities linked to drug trafficking,” Capt. Vargas indicated. “We need to efficiently monitor our airspace and shield it with more radar so that Costa Rica loses its allure as an airbridge for traffickers moving drugs from South America to the United States and Europe.” Future cooperation Capt. Vargas stressed that the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is also working with SVA to set up a Canine Anti-Narcotics Unit to bolster security at Costa Rica’s four international airports, as well as to increase the capabilities of those canine anti-narcotics units already in service. Cooperation between the two countries is on the rise. The U.S. Department of Defense will donate two C-145 Skytruck planes to strengthen SVA’s capabilities. The twin-engine planes, with room for 16 people, were designed and built for the U.S. Air Force. They will be delivered to Costa Rica in 2018. “All of this cooperation is most welcome. However, it needs to be kept up as a strategy in the fight against drug trafficking rings, due to the fact that organized crime enjoys economic power that easily allows it to purchase better equipment and technology for its operations,” Minister Mata said. These bonds of cooperation have yielded tremendous gains in recent years. In 2016, the Ministry of Security seized over 30 tons of cocaine, a sizable increase over 2015, when authorities seized 15 tons of the drug, and 2014, a year in which they seized 26 tons, according to data from the Costa Rican government. These seizures are the result of reinforced mechanisms for cooperation between Costa Rica and the United States in the area of security, as well as intelligence reports being shared among friendly nations. “Many of these operations are the result of the cooperation and reinforcement that we get from the United States. It’s incredible, they deliver us a huge percentage of our captures and seizures against transnational crime syndicates,” Capt. Vargas emphasized. To fortify Costa Rica’s strategy in its fight against drugs, President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera called on the Ministry of Security and its staff “not to let down their guard,” and urged parliamentarians in Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly to bring the Domain Extension Statute into effect as soon as possible. The statute is a legal instrument that enables the state to inflict heavier blows on organized crime and drug trafficking.
Black Stars head coach Kwesi Appiah is adamant Cameroon’s sterling record against the Black Stars of Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations will not matter as he prepares to face the 5 time champions in a crucial Group F game.Cameroon has not lost in their last 3 encounters against Ghana at the AFCON, with 2 wins and 1 draw.They kicked out the Black Stars in the semi finals of the last tournament in 2017 on their way to victory and also ended Ghana’s quest for the title at home in 2008.On Saturday, they have another chance to end Ghana’s tournament prematurely, with victory spelling the end of the competition for the 4 time champions following a draw in their first game against Benin.“Ghana has total respect for all teams in the competition. The mere fact that you beat a team in the past does not automatically guarantee you will beat them again.“Every team that we meet, we plan a strategy to face them. No can can underrate Ghana and Cameroon in any encounter. We will make sure we do our best and give them a very good game,” Appiah said in his pre-match press conference.The team is expected to train at the Ismailia Stadium at 5pm local time ahead of Saturday night’s game.Appiah also provided injury update on captain Andre Ayew, who has missed two training sessions with an ankle injury.“Ayew trained this morning and he will train again this evening. We will keep assessing him and we will see if he can play tomorrow.”–Fentuo Tahiru is in Egypt covering the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations, courtesy Betway.