Myers Touts Military Contacts in Paraguay
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ASUNCION, Paraguay, March 11, 2004 Building better military-to-military ties topped the agenda as Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers met with Paraguayan leaders here today.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers speaks during a press conference at Asuncion, Paraguay, March 11. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is in South America to encourage military-to-military relations. Photo by Cmdr. Dan Cheever, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Myers met with Paraguayan President Duarte Frutos, Defense Minister Roberto Gonzales and Gen. Jose Key Kanazawa during a three-hour visit. Myers is on a tour through South America to build military relationships in the region.
The chairman arrived in the middle of a torrential downpour that flooded streets in this capital city. He met with Duarte at the Ministry of Defense, where the president was celebrating Army Day.
Myers said his visit is meant to further bilateral and multilateral efforts. "The United States and Paraguay have a long, beneficial history of joint cooperation on military exercises, including humanitarian joint exercises such as the medial readiness exercises that we conduct together," Myers said during a press conference following his meeting with Duarte.
A Western diplomat said it is in the U.S. interest to build the relationship with Paraguay. The Paraguayan military after decades of military rule has consciously embraced civilian control of the armed forces. The military is just interested in becoming a professional force, the diplomat said. The military is not interested in playing a role in civilian politics, and this type of attitude should be rewarded.
Paraguay's democracy is new and needs stability to succeed. American assistance in helping build the fragile democracy has started to flow into the country. Military-to-military contacts, joint exercises and cooperation on a number of fronts help build the democracy. So do State Department programs designed to help such democracies thrive.
Duarte is at the center of these democratic reforms. He has put new teeth into anti-corruption laws, and this is making a difference in the nation. Paraguay experienced economic growth under Duarte, and the country is moving to reform the tax system and bring the budget process under order.
Military-to-military contacts between the United States and Paraguay help this process along, said officials traveling with Myers. The American military's example is powerful. American forces that train in Paraguay help instill a professional attitude in the military.
Myers and Paraguayan officials also spoke about an Article 98 agreement. The United States wants these agreements with each country with which it has a military relationship. The agreement would mean American forces are protected against frivolous lawsuits and charges.
Paraguay and the United States are negotiating on such an agreement, a Western diplomat said. The Paraguayans believe that earlier agreements signed with the United States already provide the protection the Americans are looking for. Until that is worked out, U.S. aid for international military education and training for Paraguay is on hold.
The chairman and Duarte also spoke about Iraq. Paraguay has said it would like to field some forces in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Paraguayan press portrayed Iraq as the sole reason for Myers' trip here. "Paraguay's decision whether or not to send troops to Iraq is Paraguay's decision and I guarantee you they will not get any pressure from the United States of America," he said.