By Richard Ramoutar, Guardian.co.tt/TodayColombia
Deemed to be an important ally of the United States, Colombia is seeking to forge, establish, promote and enhance its security and foreign relations endeavours in the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago, one of the leading Caricom nations is highly viewed as a sound, stable and developing nation with whom the government of Colombia can expand its bilateral relations.
Viewed within this context, it should be noted that T&T has much to gain and learn, both from the perspectives of national security and foreign affairs. In a Guardian report of April 19, 2012, Colombian Ambassador Alfredo Riascos outlined several significant areas which can be mutually beneficial to T&T.
Such areas include national security, policing, border security and defence co-operation, trade and investments, potential direct flights to Bogota, medical tourism, agricultural exchanges and sporting, cultural and language education opportunities. But the question remains, how far have we progressed
T&T can stand to gain much from its diplomatic relations with Colombia. Perhaps, the time may come when the Government of T&T may consider the establishment of an embassy in Bogota. Much credit must be given to both governments for the establishment of the Colombian embassy in Port-of-Spain.
Can Colombia effectively and meaningfully aid Trinidad and Tobago and does our government possess the political will to seriously complement our national security endeavours against the forces and scourge of transnational organized crimes, are questions that remain to be unanswered. At this juncture it may be prudent to begin with the issue of security co-operation
As far back as March 2006, an agreement was signed between the former minister of National Security, Martin Joseph and Camilo Oscar Bernal, Colombia’s Minister of National Defence. This agreement was to foster and promote police co-operation between these two countries in numerous areas.
It is my understanding that the Colombian government is prepared and willing to train T&T’s law enforcement and defence forces with specialised skills in Colombia. It would be a rewarding and advantageous opportunity for our officers to be trained in Colombia, as well as understanding the culture and language, and gaining valuable intelligence into the modus operandi of transnational organized crimes.
This is a nation that has had a history of political upheavals, violence, guerrilla uprising, (FARC) terrorism and the very epicenter of the once “narco-democracy” of Colombia, but has with the passage of time been able to manage, control and return the country to a politically stable and progressive nation.
Apart from these issues, a very careful investigation and analysis of Colombia would reveal a warm, hospitable people, with a desire to expand their investment and trading ties to the Caribbean.
Interestingly, the Government of Colombia, via their Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Defence and the Colombian National Police, designed an international co-operation strategy for integral security that seeks to increase the effectiveness of the struggle against transnational organized crime.
Colombia is no stranger to the illegal drugs problem, organized transnational crime and terrorism, the illegal weapons traffic, ammunition and explosives, the use and manufacture of anti-personnel mines. All of these issues are challenges to security, governance, democracy, development and public health.
The consequences today are different than ever before. Colombia’s national security strategy is designed to help us in these areas with the tools of co-operation, training, technical and legal assistance, for by strengthening the institutional capacities of our law enforcement systems, T&T can effectively contribute to hemispheric security.
For a very long time in this country, the public could not ascertain as to how and when illegal drugs, guns and human trafficking and illegal migrants enter the country. Colombian police and other intelligence bodies can effectively feed local law enforcement and intelligence agencies with this level of information.
One would suppose that the Government is very serious about transnational organized crimes and the true meaning of what constitutes the true meaning and intent of national security. Colombia is well poised to assist us in the use of technical air intelligence, port and airport control, dismantling of organizations, with asset-laundering and assert forfeiture, and the issue of new technologies.
The Colombian navy can also assist with training of the law of the sea with regards to illicit drug trafficking in the region.
There is a reason why it is called illicit drug trafficking. However and in whatever form it is transported, it is deemed internationally unlawful. Recently, Brigadier Maharaj pointed out that he had no evidence that submarines are transporting drugs to Trinidad and Tobago. While that is the Brigadier’s information, that does not erase the fact that it has not occurred before nor that it will not occur again.
However, reliable international security intelligence and that of the US, Britain and from the Colombian governments do reveal that sophisticated submarines designed in South America are transporting illegal drugs to their markets in different disguises. In this vein, as a national security spokesman, it is very critical for Brigadier Maharaj to do his intelligence homework well, and keep abreast of current intelligence occurrences.
In the face of public interest, this country is yet to understand clearly how illegal drugs guns and drugs enter and who facilitates and protects for the blessings of the almighty dollar.