Sergio de la Peña was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and arrived in the United States like many other migrants, to follow a dream. He spent 30 years in the United States Air Force, others more as a consultant until he became Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. As such, he is responsible for security, defense and policy issues in the region, as well as overseeing the funding of defense cooperation programs for the United States Northern Command and the Southern Command of the United States. United.
– In the resurgent Ecuador-United States cooperation, what is being reinforced?
– The historical context must be taken into account. In the last two years we have a great transition, but before that, in the ten years of Rafael Correa, the relationship with Ecuador was more disconnected. We are seeing how we can realign ourselves to meet objectives of mutual interest. We are concerned about the security issue in this hemisphere because we have an international projection and we want our neighborhood to be more peaceful. Here we do not have the conflicts of the children of Abraham; nor the conflicts of a resurgent Ming dynasty; nor the conflicts of the Sarista-Communist-post-Communist Russia. We are not talking about the way that Africa was cut or the conflicts that exist in part of Europe.
– But in Ecuador we do have a serious problem of drug trafficking due to the large production of drugs from neighboring countries.
– Where there are drugs there are problems because the drug is not a crime without victims. That hurts us all and we have to work in a collaborative way to see how we face that scourge. The cultivation and production of drugs are in neighboring countries, but transportation leaves Ecuador.
– You have to stop it.
– We have to find the most effective way to face the problem they are living because that will produce other social ills that can affect everyone. Another problem is nature. You have earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, mudslides, and many times, when the response capacity of civilian hands is exceeded, the Armed Forces must be involved, which not only have to be equipped for national defense.
– What is the progress in this new era of cooperation?
– When you unplug things have to re-plug. We, like you, have to plan how to distribute certain things that cost within a national budget. We had a budget that allowed us to provide certain support and those lines of financing were cut when President Rafael Correa asked us to leave Manta and leave the defense coordination office. That disconnected all systems. If they tell us that they no longer want collaboration, then we have to take those funds and establish financing lines with other countries. Now they are resetting. We have to approve new lines of financing within a government system that, many times, requires the approval of Congress. All that takes time.
– And how much progress have been made in the restoration of the financing lines?
– We have advanced a lot. First, we have the reinstatement of the Security Coordination Office. We are restarting certain lines of financing to support this restoration of relationships. But you can not do everything overnight because the planning is done a year or more in advance.
– How long will it take to restore these lines?
– Two or three years because everything has to be reprogrammed. Money is only one part because the other is the willingness of the Government of Ecuador to agree how we assume certain projects. There must be a legal agreement. Everything has to be in writing, according to the legal framework of each country.
– A monitoring aircraft is operating. Will more come?
– We talk about the capacity that is required to do certain projects. Not number of aircraft or boats, but what is the task that is required and we have experts who tell us how it can be met. One of the things that has happened in the last ten years is that the technology has changed significantly. In certain cases, what was previously done with a computer in one hour now is done with another in less time. There are new systems that we must take into consideration. We are talking about surveillance capacity, if it can be done with another country, which is another partner, or with a US platform. All this is evaluated.
– Could we say that we are in the stage of evaluation and planning of what will be the contribution of the United States to Ecuador?
– It’s more complex than that, but we can say we’re going that way. There will be things that do not go exactly as both sides wish, but we are on the right track. The most important aspect of the relationship between Ecuador and the United States is trust,
How receptive is Ecuador to the United States?
– The willingness to cooperate and collaborate is very high. The level of cooperation we have received from the Ecuadorian Armed Forces and from President Lenin Moreno is very positive. It’s like day and night. President Rafael Correa was disgusted with the United States, he expressed it in his time. He had his tendency more aligned with Unasur, Mr. Hugo Chávez, Mr. Nicolás Maduro, Mrs. Cristina Kirchner, Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula, Mr. Daniel Ortega.
– On the left.
– Socialists. We have a different alignment.
– Ecuador lacks radars. Is the United States able to support with radars?
– We are not talking about radars, but capacity. What you want to have is situational knowledge about the national space, which is land, sea, air and if there is capacity, space. We have to also consider cyberspace. We are looking for ways to provide situational knowledge. If you have that internal knowledge, we can help with the neighbors so they too are part of the neighborhood watch. The drug traffickers and the people who are stealing the fish do not care about the law.
– Neither the borders.
– Exactly. But States have to comply with legal regulations. You have to work in a more collaborative way to share information. We use technology and partnerships, alliances, to face these problems in a more collaborative way. We treat things in a more regional way. We have a problem that is Venezuela, we have to give a regional response, because if we act alone it will not have any impact.
– Will the United States support Ecuador in the care of the border with Colombia?
– We are talking about how Colombians can work with Ecuadorians and how we can help organize that effort so that we all speak the same language. We are looking at how we can design the support required to make Ecuador more effective in doing the job. It is not about armored vehicles or night viewers, it is about determining first what is required. If we offer equipment, it will come with training, maintenance, spare parts. We advance at the speed of confidence and at the speed that the Ecuadorian system allows. (I)