AREQUIPA, Peru – The 11th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas got under way on Monday in the Peruvian city of Arequipa with an eye toward strengthening cooperation among the armed forces of the participating countries and dealing with transnational security challenges in a consensual manner.
The inaugural ceremony was presided by Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, accompanied by his defense minister, Pedro Cateriano, who will head the plenary session to be participated in by ministers and delegates from 34 countries.
Also attending the meeting as observers are the defense ministers of Spain and Portugal, Pedro Morenes and Jose Pedro Aguiar-Branco, respectively.
In his inaugural address, Humala expressed appreciation for the presence of the Portuguese and Spanish ministers at the meeting because their countries are ones with which the Americas have “important historical links and (they) are the nations destined to bring (Europe and the Americas) closer ... to greater cooperation.”
The Peruvian leader said that “the traditional threats to security, such as confrontations between countries, have been replaced by threats of a more transnational nature, such as drug trafficking” and organized crime.
He also emphasized that the fight against the illegal use of natural resources and climate change are other threats that countries in the region are facing.
In addition, Humala said that Latin America is a zone that is free of nuclear weapons and armed clashes between the countries making it up.
The Peruvian president also said that the ministerial summit is a multilateral forum and underlined the need to arrive at consensus to deal with the main security challenges facing Latin America.
The meeting, which is being held behind closed doors, will conclude on Tuesday with the signing of the Arequipa Declaration, a document that will gather together the conclusions and the agreements reached at the summit on the five issue areas where discussion will focus.
Those areas include cooperation among the armed forces of the region on military medicine, humanitarian aid, environmental protection, organized crime, United Nations peacekeeping operations and search and rescue operations for disappeared persons, among others.