Posted: Thursday, September 7, 2023. 10:52 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Elaborating on specific commitments that the United States government has made in partnership with Belize to aid in the fight against transnational drug-trafficking organizations, Daniel Erikson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere said those efforts lean on the Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) which oversees national defenses against traffickers’ attempts to move cargo into the region.
“From the perspective of the Department of Defense, we recognize the important role that Belize plays both as a member of the countries of Central America and as a member of the Caribbean community as well. And we really do recognize Belize’s leadership in the region. … We also recognize the challenges that are posed by transnational criminal organizations. We had an opportunity to review border security and look at some of the initiatives that we can take there, including a visit we conducted to the Joint Intelligence Operations Center, which helps to provide air domain awareness in Belize as well as a visit to the air wing where we got to also see the Cessna that was donated recently, which allows Belize to have greater knowledge and domain awareness over its airspace,” Secretary Erikson explained.
He added that “…we have discussed the government’s plans and strategies to address that and to see what more that the Department of Defense could potentially do to support, of course when you look at border security and the effort to ensure that rule of law is upheld. With respect to transnational organized crime, a lot of that burden also falls on the law, domestic law enforcement agencies, and not necessarily on the military, although there are ways that we could work together on that.”
Regarding what the U.S. is doing internally, there are efforts to address demand reduction for drugs while regional governments are being asked to work together and share information, cooperate, and stand together against the threat.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense was also questioned about the proliferation of firearms in Central America manufactured in the United States. A Bloomberg report published in July investigated how U.S. gun exports are fueling violence across the world. According to Bloomberg, almost three hundred thousand semiautomatic firearms have been exported into Central America over the last seventeen years. Neighboring Guatemala is the second largest importer in the region. According to Erikson, “We at large, are very concerned about gun violence in the region and illegal weapons trafficking. A lot of this is managed beyond the scope of the Department of Defense, per se, because it has to do with other agencies of the U.S. government.”
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