Rumsfeld Seeks Strengthening Of U.S.-Latin American Ties
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, March 22, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here at the Argentine capital city March 21, kicking off a four-day Latin-American trip.
The secretary will seek to strengthen the U.S. bilateral defense relationship with Argentina, according to senior defense officials, as well as solidify relationships with Brazil and Guatemala, which Rumsfeld is also slated to visit between now and March 24.
Rumsfeld told traveling press members en route to Argentina that the United States takes a keen interest in the goings-on throughout the Western Hemisphere and has "good military-to-military relationships" with Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala.
These three nations are important defense partners of the United States, Rumsfeld said, noting all have peacekeeping troops in Haiti with the Brazilian-led stabilization force. Today, he is slated to meet with Argentine Minister of Defense Jose Pampuro and other top officials.
Rumsfeld met the Argentinean, Brazilian and Guatemalan defense ministers last year at Quito, Ecuador, during the Defense Ministerial of the Americas. During remarks he made at that ministerial on Nov. 17, Rumsfeld noted "much work" needed to be accomplished to better secure the Western Hemisphere against terrorists and narcotics traffickers.
"The new threats of the 21st century recognize no borders," Rumsfeld told ministerial attendees at Quito.
"Terrorists, drug-traffickers, hostage takers, and criminal gangs," the secretary noted at Quito, "form an anti-social combination that increasingly seeks to destabilize civil societies."
For example, American authorities are aware of money laundering and other illegal activities that allegedly occur within an unruly region at the convergence of the Argentine-Brazilian-Paraguayan borders.
"Clearly, the people who are engaged in a variety of types of anti-social behavior against established governments and people (and) their populations look for 'seams,'" Rumsfeld explained, noting terrorists and other lawless elements search for out-of-the-way areas where they can "intervene and take advantage of."
Those types of places "exist in a lot of places around the world," he pointed out.
And the possibility that shoulder-fired-missiles stored across Latin America and other countries could fall into the wrong hands also is a subject "that does concern us," Rumsfeld acknowledged to reporters.
An antidote to lawlessness and the poverty it feeds upon, Rumsfeld noted at last year's Quito ministerial, requires the promotion of security, economic growth and opportunity.
DoD opened regional science and technology offices in Chile in 2002, and Argentina in 2004. Rumsfeld said the subject of more shared interests in the fields of science and technology would also likely be discussed during the current trip.