Western Hemisphere Nations Stand Stronger

first_imgBy Geraldine Cook/Diálogo October 30, 2017 Managing security, defense, and policy matters in the Western Hemisphere is a key element of the U.S. relations with its regional partners. For retired U.S. Army Colonel Sergio de la Peña, a native of Mexico, the commitment is personal. In his role as the U.S. Department of Defense’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs, he is responsible for security, defense, and policy issues in the region, and he oversees the funding of defense cooperation programs for U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), among other responsibilities.De la Peña spoke with Diálogo at the closing ceremony of the South American Regional Seminar on Countering Transregional-Transnational Threat Networks (T3N), organized by the William J. Perry Center of Hemispheric Defense Studies from September 26th to 28th in Lima, Peru. As part of the topics discussed, De la Peña explained the mission of his role, the challenges he faces, and the common regional threats that are making him more passionate about his job.Diálogo: What is the mission of the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs?U.S. Department of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs de la Peña: Our mission is to provide defense policy for the Western Hemisphere, the area that’s encompassed from the North Pole to the South Pole and the western half of the globe.Diálogo: What is the importance or your presence here at the South American seminar on countering T3N?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: The way that we go about doing our work in this hemisphere is by engaging with our partner nations, our allies, and our friends. Without their support, we are much weaker. We need to have the collaboration of every member of the hemisphere. That’s something that is more aspirational at this time because not everybody is a current friend, but the vast majority of the countries in this hemisphere think in line with what we want to achieve, so we want to make sure we strengthen those partnerships, those friendships, and those alliances.Diálogo: How do you accomplish that engagement?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: It begins with contact on a personal level. It’s making sure that as leaders, we engage person to person; that we are able to establish dialogue at the highest levels because the leaders are what set the tone for the relationship. If you can get the leaders to agree, if you can get the leaders to talk to each other and engage in a positive way, then subordinates follow. We’re about creating an environment where we have a much more secure hemisphere.Diálogo: What do you think is your biggest challenge?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: I think the biggest challenge is getting everybody on the same sheet of music, understanding each other. A lot of times there is goodwill. You want to do the right thing, but we have different languages, we have different terminology, we have different systems, and then we have different agencies that don’t always match up one-on-one. In some countries you have laws that allow the police to do certain things; in other countries, those are military functions. So it’s just getting to understand each other and use goodwill to be able to overcome some of those differences in structures and differences in systems.Diálogo: What do you expect to achieve with all the countries you engaged with at this event?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: We’ve talked about a Western Hemisphere that is collaborative, prosperous and secure. The key thing about these types of events is collaboration. If you have collaboration, if you have goodwill, then you have a partner in security. If you have a secure hemisphere, you have a prosperous hemisphere.Diálogo: What is your assessment of the participants at this conference, South American countries, talking about transnational threats?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: I think there’s a lot of goodwill, and we’ve established a good foundation for future collaboration, which is what we want to achieve.Diálogo: What is your biggest concern?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: The biggest concern is maintaining the dialogue, ensuring that we understand each other, and ensuring that we’re constantly working toward solving any of the conflicts that could produce a difference of opinion where we have a lack of collaboration. I think if we can get past those types of challenges, I think we have a stronger and more collaborative hemisphere.Diálogo: There is a lot of concern about regional security issues, such as narcotrafficking, weapons trafficking, human trafficking, and other criminal activities. What is your assessment about the security threats in the region?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: We have a lot of different challenges. We need to take them one at a time. We need to figure out what is the priority for us and what’s the priority for the partner nations. I think that we have a fairly good level of understanding of what threats are common to both sides. What we need to do is figure out a way to coordinate on what is the key thing that concerns both parties. Once we’re able to identify what those are, I think we can come to a point where we can prioritize in a more efficient way, so that everybody is looking at the same problem and at least putting the same value or at least the same priority on that problem.Diálogo: How do you work together with countries in our region to counter T3N?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: The key thing about networks of this nature is making sure that we’re sharing information and intelligence, and that’s not always easy to do. It’s something that we have to work on, by establishing what are the mechanisms that allow us to share information, how do we safeguard that information? And how can we use that information to go against a common threat? It’s about making each other situationally aware of the environment that each of us is living and making sure that we’re able to figure out a way to share information, so that we can go against a common threat.Diálogo: What is the importance of SOUTHCOM and NORTHCOM working together for the security of the Western Hemisphere?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM do work together but whenever you have a seam, whenever you have a border, you’re going to have challenges. You’re going to have limitations on what you do on one side of that area of operations versus the other. What we need to do is make sure that we maintain the dialogue and be able to close that seam as much as possible because the bad guys don’t have borders; they don’t care about seams and they don’t care about boundaries. We need to make sure that at those boundaries, we have the mechanisms in place where we can track people that are on one side or the other.Diálogo: How does the Office of the Secretary of Defense help countries in need, like Mexico and the Caribbean islands, dealing with natural disasters? Is that a problem that can also affect security?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: Absolutely. Any time you have a natural disaster, especially a severe one, it challenges a state’s ability to respond. If the state does not respond in an efficient manner, then people get angry. When they get angry, that impacts security. What we do, as much as we can, is help. For the recent earthquake, we’ve already sent several large aircrafts, C-17s, into Mexico. Right now we’re confronting the results of the hurricanes that have gone through the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. We have to shift our attention now from some of the earthquake issues to hurricane-related concerns that affect U.S. citizens. That doesn’t mean that we forget about our partner nations. We help them as much as we can with those things that we have expertise in sharing with them, but we also have to take a look at what’s happening in U.S. territories and be sure that we respond accordingly with those people as well because in the case of Puerto Rico, it’s been pretty devastating.Diálogo: Would you like to add anything else for Diálogo readers?Deputy Assistant Secretary De la Peña: We’re a partner, we want to collaborate, and we want to strengthen those ties. We want to re-engage with those that may have had a different point of view for some time and are now returning back to a similar way of thinking as us.last_img read more

Olympic Stadium managers oppose details of West Ham deal being made public

first_imgManagers of London’s Olympic Stadium have opposed a decision for details of West Ham’s rental deal to be made public. The London Legacy Development Corporations (LLDC) – set up to ensure the long-term success of the 2012 Olympics site – and West Ham want the contract to remain private. The LLDC has, however, vowed to publish more details over the agreement which will see West Ham take on on a 99-year deal as anchor tenants starting from next season. The decision to hand West Ham the keys to the stadium has been questioned since it was first announced two and a half years ago. A statement from the LLDC released on Thursday evening read: “We are lodging an appeal against the Information Commissioner’s judgement . “This follows careful consideration, informed by legal advice, and is limited to a smaller number of redactions. “The appeal relates only to information which if released could significantly reduce the level of financial return to the taxpayer as it would undermine negotiations with future users of the stadium and other partners. “We have listened to the Commissioner’s comments and as a public body are committed to maximising transparency. “As a result we will shortly publish more details of the agreement with West Ham United in all areas that fall outside the scope of our appeal.” Last month the Government rejected a request from a host of supporters’ clubs for an inquiry into West Ham’s move to the 54,000-capacity stadium. But fans seeking transparency over the move have accused the LLDC of “running scared of the taxpayer”. A spokesman for the coalition of club supporters’ trusts, formed to campaign on the issue, told the Guardian: ” We have always respected West Ham United’s absolute right as a privately owned business to negotiate the most favourable commercial terms. “However it is quite another matter for the LLDC, as a publicly owned corporation, answerable to the GLA, Government and ultimately responsible to the taxpayer, and charged with the oversight of public assets, to seek to block the publication of information about the use of those assets. “The public have the right to know. Fans have a right to know. The LLDC is running scared of the taxpayer.” West Ham, who have played at their current Upton Park home since 1904, will host all of their home matches at an Olympic Stadium sporting the club’s livery and colours. British Athletics also has a deal to take control of the arena for one month every summer. The Anniversary Games and the 2017 World Athletics Championships are set to be hosted there, but West Ham have had to face criticism, with a familiar complaint being that a football club playing in the richest league in the world should not receive taxpayers’ subsidy for a new home. It has been reported that the annual rental agreement on the 99-year lease is around £2.5million. Press Associationlast_img read more

Men’s soccer set to kickoff postseason

first_imgWith 19 points this season, midfielder Tomislav Zadro’s offensive production could determine how far the Badgers go in the Big Ten Tournament.[/media-credit]With their season-long goal of reaching the NCAA tournament in jeopardy, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team will enter their opening round game against Michigan Wednesday with their dream on the line.Starting Wednesday, the Big Ten Tournament kicks off in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Badgers, who earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament with a 9-7-2 record overall, are set to play the hometown Michigan Wolverines, the No. 6 seed (5-13-1 overall), in the first round of the tournament.“It’s Michigan’s home field; there is an advantage there, no question about it,” head coach John Trask said. “Having said that, it’s the Big Ten Tournament, it doesn’t matter if it was being played on Mars. Every single team will be ready to play and that includes us, and we are looking forward to a great event.”While it appears to be a tough draw for the Badgers to play the tournament host, they actually enter familiar territory, having already defeated the Wolverines once in Ann Arbor this year.In their second game of Big Ten play in October, the Badgers pulled out a hard fought 2-1 victory against the Wolverines despite being outshot 23-6 by the home team. Still, statistics can be deceptive, and the Badgers have managed to score goals all year with relatively little shot production.“We feel confident that we can play with any team,” junior midfielder Tomislav Zadro said. “They may have outshot us, but we dominated in goals and that is all that matters. If we can do that again, I think we will be fine no matter how many shots they take. Many of the shots they took were from 40 yards out, and we are quite content to let them take those; it is hard to score from there.”Should the Badgers manage to defeat the Wolverines for a second time this season, they would be faced with either the No. 2 seed Ohio State or the No. 7 seed Penn State.Regardless, the Badgers likely need multiple wins in the Big Ten Tournament to be considered for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. Only one team, the winner of the Big Ten Tournament, is guaranteed a spot, and the Badgers would need to win three games in five days to come out on top.“We need to keep winning,” Trask said. “The easiest way to [get in] would be to win the Big Ten Tournament and get into the NCAA tournament automatically. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about any other teams. … I don’t like to leave things to other teams.“Having said that, to go and win the Big Ten means we have to win three games in a short period of time, which is extremely hard.”At the beginning of the season, it would have seemed an unlikely story to say that the Badgers had a shot at the Big Ten Tournament trophy.They entered the season picked in the coach’s poll to finish last (out of seven) in the Big Ten, but after silencing the skeptics with a solid third place finish in the conference, the Badgers believe they are legitimate title contenders.“You have to play to your own standards,” senior forward Josh Thiermann said. “It is important to go into the game with the mindset that, if you don’t go into the game and impose your will on the other team, that you could lose and we can’t afford to do that.”Still, their path to the Big Ten Tournament final is not an easy one.The most likely scenario to winning the tournament includes facing the two Big Ten teams that defeated them in the regular season, Northwestern and Ohio State, which are seeded No. 1 and No. 2 in the tournament, respectively.Northwestern, which has a first-round bye in the tournament, does not play until Friday, when they face the winner of the Indiana vs. Michigan State game. The Wildcats were the only team in the Big Ten to go undefeated this year, and in a matchup in Evanston, Ill., earlier this year, the Badgers were unable to score and ultimately lost to Northwestern, 1-0.With so little season left for the Badgers, who are now one loss away from the end to their season, each game takes on new meaning. This is especially true for the seniors on the squad, for many of whom this is their last competitive season.“If we lose, it could all be over,” Thiermann said. “You want to go into every game with the mindset that you’re gonna win it. With that said, being a senior, knowing that you’re just on that verge [of the NCAA tournament], I’m sure there will be that little bit more intensity, urgency from us to keep the season alive.”last_img read more

Troubling result SOF WO referendums in Caricom

first_imgDear Editor,The Caribbean has been a hot spot for the European Colonial powers for many centuries. Territories changed hands regularly as wars of possession flared up time and again. The people living in them had no say in what was happening.However, gradually the masses began to insert themselves in those fights. First, they abolished slavery, then indentureship, and later began the fight for freedom- independence.The intensity of that struggle varied in each territory. However, the forward-looking leaders were always for a clean break with colonialism.In the post-independence period, attempts were made to establish a Caribbean Community. Progress has been made over the years. Admittedly though, very often it has been so, that it makes the tortoise look like a sprinter.Recently, the movement towards integration has suffered some serious setbacks. The referendums held in Antigua and Grenada to decide whether those two countries should withdraw from the Privy Council of the United Kingdom as their court of final jurisdiction and for them to join the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) delivered results that are very disturbing. Those two referendums rejected the proposition to join the CCJ.It is worrying, because this is not a case where the British or the Privy Council are fighting to keep the Caribbean states in their jurisdiction. In fact, it is the opposite, they have been encouraging the region to leave, because they are aware that the judges at the CCJ are more familiar with the culture of the people of the region, the nuances of life here, etc.The fact that the people of the region have a lot in common is important. Generally, we have a common history, and experience has shown that our people interact with each other with great ease. There are positions to promote and facilitate integration.Why, therefore, is it proving so hard to build institutions that can facilitate greater integration?After all, via CARICOM we have established a common market; we have expressed our intention to work harder to unite our economies. We have often coordinated our position on international issues. Working together has helped the region to punch way above its weight.  We are often courted in appointments to import international bodies.While I don’t profess to have all the answers, I believe that while we have independence, our colonial past still weighs heavily on our mind. The influence of centuries of colonial domination has not yet been overcome.I recall that when I made my maiden speech at the CARICOM Heads meeting in St. Lucia, I raised this issue. I said then that it does not speak well of us that after fifty years of independence all the territories are not members of the CCJ. I had called for all the territories to join and strengthen this important institution.I must admit that I did not fully grasp the depth of the colonial domination on people’s and leaders’ mind. I now marvel at Bob Marley’s exertions to emancipate our minds from mental slavery, or the regular exertion of the Mighty Chalkdust to do the same in many of his calypsos.I say this because most of the region’s territories are still outside the CCJ. It is clear that the important leaders, people in politics, law, media, etc. are not convinced of the importance of CARICOM. They do not think the benefits of integration are significant.We are living in a world of great fundamental contradictions. On the one hand, the international economy has now interlinked, but it is producing a greater nationalism even among highly developed nation.Under the slogan of ‘making America great again’, President Trump has been pulling the US out of many important bodies and agreements. He is using the power of the US not to assist in building a better world, but to extract more benefits for the US. At least that is how he sees things.The withdrawal of the UK from the EU is another manifestation of this growing nationalism. The movement for withdrawals from internationalism is strong in France, Spain and Germany as well.I believe that this is so because of the failure of this neo-liberal model of globalisation to improve people’s lives. Figures are numerous to show that the benefits from increased production and productivity goes mainly to the one percent of the very rich internationally. The ‘dog eat dog’ mentality which dominated our world for centuries is still the strongest sentiment internationally.Ordinary working people have experienced stagnation and decline in a world of great abundance.This direction of isolation will not help the people as they are being told, it could make things worse. The task, is to change the model of globalisation.Therefore, CARICOM leaders and opinion makers, must consider carefully their position on this issue. The CCJ has shown great capacity and integrity. It can become even stronger. This act of rejection of the CCJ has with it the seeds of greater harm.It shows the mentality that many still believes that we in the region are inferior to others. It can be interpreted, that we still believe that things from abroad are always superior to what we have or produce.This, in the global environment, can lead to disintegration. It can threaten the other gains that have already been made, however modest they may be.On the other hand, with boldness, the region can become a region of hope, and serve as an alternative experience on the need and benefits of integration for the world.We must work to overcome the recent setbacks, or else face the consequences of great reversal.Donald RamotarFormer Presidentlast_img read more