LAT AM: SOUTHCOM Command Change; Regional Deal on Amazon Forests

October 31, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

First Female Commander for SOUTHCOM.

U.S. Southern Command has changed leaders and the new chief, U.S. Army General Laura Richardson, is the first woman to head the sprawling geographic combatant command.

U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, assumes command from Defense Secretary Lloyd  Austin at SOUTHCOM Headquarters in Doral, Florida, Oct. 29, 2021.  (SOUTHCOM photo by Master Sergeant Stephen J. Caruso)

In a command change ceremony October 29 at SOUTHCOM headquarters in Doral, Florida, Navy Admiral Craig Faller, turned over U.S. military responsibility for the Latin American and Caribbean regions to Richardson. The 57-year-old general is only the second woman, after Air Force General Lori Robinson, to lead a geographic combatant command.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the ceremony as did several dignitaries from the region, including Colombia’s Minister of National Defense Diego Molano.

Austin congratulated Molano on the recent capture of Colombia’s most-wanted cartel leader, Dario Antonio Úsaga (alias Otoniel). The two defense leaders discussed deepening cooperation on strategic issues including Colombia’s contributions to global and regional security, migration, cyber defense, and intelligence. They also stressed the importance of respect for democracy and human rights in all aspects of the bilateral defense relationship, according to the Pentagon.

SOUTHCOM is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation in its assigned area of responsibility which includes Central America (but not Mexico), South America and the Caribbean.

During the war in Iraq, Richardson commanded an assault helicopter battalion and flew missions to support troops on the ground, Austin noted. She later commanded U.S. Army North, before taking command of SOUTHCOM. “There isn’t a crisis that she can’t handle,” Austin said.

Reflecting on his nearly three years at SOUTHCOM, Faller noted that democracies in the Western Hemisphere have been under assault from a vicious circle of threats, the Tampa Bay Times reported. They include corruption, climate change, COVID-19, major hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes, and transnational criminal organizations as well as “the corrosive, malign influence of the People’s Republic of China.”

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Curbing Amazon Deforestation.

The week before the SOUTHCOM ceremony, after high-level talks in Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a regional partnership to address deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

“We’ll give much-needed financial assistance to help manage protected areas and Indigenous territories, and we’ll help scale up low-carbon agricultural practices to farmers throughout the Amazon,” Blinken said October 21, in the capital, Bogota, the VoA website reported.

“This new regional partnership will help prevent up to 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere while capturing another 52,000 metric tons of carbon, and we estimate it will save — save — more than 45,000 hectares of forest,” he added.

Deforestation in the Maranhão state of Brazil, in 2016. (Photo by Ibama from Brasil – Operação Hymenaea, Julho/2016, via wikipedia)

The Amazon spans eight countries in South America, including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The Amazon and other rainforests are crucial because they take in carbon dioxide and produce about one-fifth of the world’s oxygen. About a third of Colombia is in the Amazon.

Entry filed under: Army, climate change, Coronavirus pandemic, Latin America, National Security and Defense, women in the military. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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