Douglas Fraser, DOD:
Southern Command Targets Transnational Organized Crime
March 18, 2012
U.S. Southern Command is focused on
stopping transnational organized crime and building partners’
capabilities, Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser said here today.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Southern
Command commander detailed the challenges facing Southcom, which has
responsibility for U.S. military relationships in Central and South
America and the Caribbean.
Working with other U.S. federal agencies, the command has focused on a
concern that permeates the region: transnational organized crime, which
the general said “is seriously impacting citizen safety in Central
America, especially Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.”
Transnational crime rings “threaten to overwhelm law enforcement
capacities, and in an effort to reduce violence and halt the spread of
these criminal groups, these countries have deployed their militaries in
support of law enforcement organizations,” he said.
Disrupting these narcosyndicates is part of the overall strategy in the
region, Fraser said. In the past year, the command developed and
implemented Operation Martillo, a plan to disrupt illicit maritime
traffic in the departure zones of South America and the arrival zones in
Central America, the general said.
Southern Command personnel have helped train partner nations’ military
members to support local police, and provides “network analysis of
transnational criminal organizations and their operations,” Fraser said.
The command works in the Caribbean under the Caribbean Basin Security
Initiative, which is developing the regional maritime interdiction plan
to enhance the capabilities of Caribbean partners, Fraser said.
“In South America, we will sustain our support to Colombia and to Peru
as they fight narcoterrorist groups in these countries,” he said.
The command is working to build enduring international and interagency
partnerships by promoting cooperation and information-sharing, Fraser
Personnel also are working through traditional military channels to
strengthen disaster relief capabilities,” he said. “We remain ready to
respond should our assistance be requested,” he said.
The command has been busy. In 2011, it conducted hundreds of training
and educational events, 12 major multinational exercises with partner
nations in the hemisphere and 56 medical readiness training exercises in
“This sustained engagement is yielding important benefits,” Fraser said.
“Last year, for the first time, Colombia assumed the land component
commander role during Panamax, our annual multinational exercise focused
on supporting the defense of the Panama Canal.”
This year, Brazil will command the maritime component of the exercise,
are not limited to the homegrown varieties. Iran is very engaged in
Latin America, the general said. “They have doubled their number of
embassies in the last seven years,” he said. “They now have 11
embassies. They have 40 cultural centers in 17 different countries
throughout the region.”
Southern Command officials see the Iranian activity as trying to build
cultural awareness and awareness for Iran to circumvent international
sanctions against Iran. “They are seeing an opportunity with some of the
anti-U.S.-focused countries within the region as a method on being able
to do that,” he said.
The concern lies with Iran’s connections with Hezbollah and Hamas
terrorist groups, both of which have organizations in Latin America,
Fraser said. “Those organizations are primarily focused on financial
support to organizations back in the Middle East, but they are involved
in illicit activity,” he said.
“So that is the connection that we continue to look for as we watch into
the future, that connection between the illicit activity and the
potential pathway into the United States,” he added.