The regional meeting of Latin American Maritime Intelligence Units took place in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on 22-24 June. The event was attended by the Director of SEACOP, who opened the meeting, the Colombian Foreign Ministry, senior representatives of the Colombian Navy and Police and a special video by the Ambassador of the European Union in Colombia.
The heads of the Intelligence Units of all the countries of the region within the SEACOP action established the situation of maritime traffic in their respective regions, the capacities they offer and the needs that are required to strengthen the action. The modus operandi used by criminal organisations, the new routes detected and the new criminal organisations that are operating from Latin America were studied in depth. Taking into account this international approach, different foreign agencies such as CBP, HSI, MSCB and MAOC (N) also participated in the meeting, as well as representatives from Senegal, Cape Verde and Ghana. The meeting had a clear operational focus, and the participants were trained officers and members of the Maritime Intelligence Unit.
“We hope to establish links with representatives of other institutions to strengthen the approach at the regional level,” stated Deputy Commissioner Gastón Cidre of the Argentinean Navy.
The meeting introduced a special session dedicated to gender in SEACOP to mainstream gender to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement and help combat stereotypes and discrimination. SEACOP has been integrating a strong gender perspective and recently approved its “Gender Mainstreaming Guide”. The meeting opened with an overview of gender and sex, the role of women in the trafficking chain and the role of women in law enforcement. Case studies and discussions were held on the issues raised and testimonies were shared from women officers attending the event. Perspectives and ideas on the way forward to improve gender mainstreaming were discussed, as well as the implications of gender for law enforcement. Female officers not only bring equality in working groups, but can also enhance their skills and capacities, for example, when dealing with female perpetrators or victims.
“Women have not had it easy; we have encountered obstacles and reluctance from our own colleagues. However, we continue to try and show our capabilities. We are important assets for covert and intelligence activities,” said Sara Morán of the National Customs Service of Ecuador.
Finally, a panel was presented on SEACOP’s second cross-cutting focus: environment. Experts from the Colombian National Police commented on the importance of the environment in the trafficking chain and the negative effects on it.
The Regional Meeting sought to strengthen the capacities of the units at regional level to increase their effectiveness through the exchange of maritime information, raise and address shared concerns with a collective, regional and global approach.