By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo November 19, 2021
Army General (ret.) Bernardino Soto Estigarribia, Paraguayan minister of Defense, met with Diálogo at the Ministry of National Defense to talk about the progress of the Military Forces and their projects for the future.
Diálogo: What is your greatest challenge?
Army General (ret.) Bernardino Soto Estigarribia, Paraguayan minister of Defense: I am focused on having a futuristic vision of my country’s Armed Forces, especially in the expansion of their roles, in the process of transformation of the military, where new security scenarios are put into perspective and under the framework of democracy and citizen transparency.
Transnational organized crime has become a serious security problem, since it not only threatens democratic institutions and the economic activity of states, but it also becomes a phenomenon that subverts regional stability when it crosses borders. These organizations perpetrate criminal acts that have gone from being a security concern for public order to becoming a national defense challenge. In this sense, I find challenging the need to expand the constitutional mission of our Armed Forces, so that we can have adequate legislation to help us confront these scourges.
Diálogo: What is the most important project that your office is working on?
Gen. Soto: We work on the empowerment of the Armed Forces’ human, material, and financial resources. One of the main objectives is to gain integral control of multidimensional space [land, riverine, and air]. It’s important to emphasize that this large-scale process must be accompanied by political will, the adaptation of legal standards, and the acquisition of capabilities.
Another proposed short-term goal is to increase the forces’ operational capability and their means, in order to confront threats to national security. For this reason, we are analyzing an appropriate national security and defense strategy that will allow us to anticipate future risks and threats and have a minimum impact on budget forecasts.
Diálogo: What type of coordination do Paraguay and Brazil have to curb the influence of criminal groups on the border, especially the First Capital Command (PCC, in Portuguese) and the Red Command (CV, in Portuguese)?
Gen. Soto: Paraguay and Brazil share an extensive land, air, and riverine border, so they work jointly in the fight against organized crime, which is characteristic of border areas. In this region, we have identified the PCC and the CV, and in order to counter their actions we hold annual and biannual coordination meetings with military intelligence agencies from both countries, so as to maintain direct communication to exchange information and coordination in the operational and intelligence fields.
Diálogo: How do Paraguay and the United States work together to counter common threats in the region?
Gen. Soto: Paraguay and the United States have forged closer and stronger ties, especially in terms of countering threats considered common to both nations, such as narcotrafficking and related crimes. Paraguay is committed to not falter in the fight against narcotrafficking and is doing a formidable job in the fight against this scourge, which the U.S. government has recently praised and highlighted, and [this] has further served to bolster the commitment of the national government to strengthen this fight against organized crime. Paraguay greatly values its cooperation with the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration], as well as regional and bilateral cooperation to address these common challenges.
In terms of defense cooperation, the relationship has been very positive for my country in terms of exchanging ideas, experiences, and partnerships. For example, human resource training opportunities have been very beneficial for the Armed Forces, as in my case back in 1986, when I was a guest instructor in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Diálogo: How does Paraguay prepare to counter cyberdefense attacks?
Gen. Soto: We have recently developed a cyberdefense policy and doctrine under the national defense approach, which will enable us to take immediate action to counter actions in this field. The next challenge is to adapt legal standards and create projects to improve the level of capabilities, and to advance the necessary measures to protect cyberspace security with strategies geared toward prevention and awareness in a digital environment.
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