Army Gen. Laura J. Richardson, U.S. Southern Command commander, discusses Latin America with David Ignatius, columnist and associate editor of The Washington Post, during the Aspen Security Conference. July 20, 2022.
She was an all-America swimmer in high school. She joined the army after college. She ah was a helicopter pilot deployed to Iraq. She commanded I believe an air assault battalion for the 101st airborne. She is a parachutist and if you’re wondering about work life balance, general Richardson’s husband is a lieutenant general and they were both deployed to Iraq at the same time as their daughter was becoming a teenager. So uh she managed to figure that out on a lot else. Generalist in um your command South com uh covering Latin America is in some ways the most overlooked combatant command I think. And that reflects a general problem for our country, which is that we just don’t spend enough time thinking about our backyard. So I want to ask you to open our conversation by giving us a basic south com 101. What concerns you in your area of responsibility?
What are the problems that are on your to do list?
And how would you define this part of the world and what matters there in terms of national security interests of the country?
Okay well thank you. It’s really good to be here and see everybody here. So uh and thank you for being here for this presentation. I call the I call them our region uh that uh consists of the Caribbean south America and central America. But we tend to look east and west a lot and not so much south and I call it south blindness. You know the we just get wrapped up in east west and really this is our neighborhood. And when you really think about what that means, uh, in a neighborhood, what does it mean to you?
And it means that you have friends and neighbors very close by. You have neighbors that you rely on. You have neighbors that you rely on for security for safety of the neighborhood, right?
You’re in it together. And that’s how I look at the south com area of responsibility and this very, very important region. I look at it like the 20 yard line. If you want to talk about sports and do a sports analogy, We are on the 20 yard line to the Homeland and to the United States and our competitors know that our adversaries know that this region is so rich and resources. It’s off the charts rich and they have a lot to be proud of And our competitors and adversaries also know how rich in the resources that this region is, 60% of the world’s lithium is in the region. You have heavy crude, you have light sweet crude, you have rare earth elements. You have the amazon, which is called the lungs of the world. You have the 31% of the world’s fresh water here in this region. Uh, and there are adversaries that are taking advantage of this region every single day, right in our neighborhood. And I just look at what happens in this region in terms of security impacts our security, our national security in the homeland and in the United States. And so we have to be as part of the neighborhood. We need to strengthen our partnerships. Uh, and Secretary Austin talks about this, the integrated deterrence. And I know it’s been talked about a little bit earlier today, but I can expound upon that as well as we go forward because I think it’s really important. And everybody in this in this room is a part of that. You’re a part of this call to action that we need to strengthen our neighborhood and we need to realize how resource rich this neighborhood is and how close our competitors and our adversaries are in the region. So we may not be focused on our neighborhood, but another country is and that’s china. I noted recently that I believe 21 countries in your A. O. R. Are members of the belt and road initiative, which is extraordinary. And I want to ask you to first to describe what that looks like um, what you see as you travel around the region in terms of china’s efforts to expand its influence, uh make, make friendships, make ties and then what as south com commander you’re trying to do about it. So I say the china is playing chess. They have a long term view. They are setting the theater, which is what we use as a doctrinal term or a way I can say it in layman’s terms setting the table When I show a map of the region and the 21 of 31 countries that have, have signed on as signatories to the belt and road initiative. It covers almost the entire region. 25 of the 21 countries. There are 25 countries that actually have projects, uh, uh, inside of their country, a metro station, a railway, a highway telling communications a very uh, projects under the guise of economics, right. It looks like there’s investment in this region. These countries are starving for investment. They are starving for having, uh, and showing that they are delivering for their people. Covid has really made a tremendous impact and had a tremendous impact negatively On this region. 22 million people into poverty. As a result, they’ve suffered an, um, huge, uh, proportion of the deaths, the world Covid deaths. And so these, uh, these governments are trying to deliver for their people. People are getting impatient. And so these projects are, you know, when they have nothing else to choose from, you know, their dire to show some progress for their countries, then they sign up for these projects. And as we know, that gets into a debt trap, loans are taken out multiple loans in some cases for some of these projects that eventually they either have to pay back or other things they have to give up in terms of their sovereignty. And so it’s, it’s just, it’s a spiraling trap that we see a lot of these nations that get into as a result of this. And yet that’s not how the countries often described their relationships with china brazil. The biggest economy in the region, its biggest trading partner is china. And president bolsonaro was asked recently about china and he said china is a good partner. We don’t see china as a threat. And I’m I’m curious um what you see as a combatant commander that may not be obvious to President bolsonaro or other leaders in the region that you’d want to warn them about?
Specifically talked about the problem of indebtedness. But what else?
Well, as I see the investment in the critical infrastructure in the region, deep water ports, telecommunications, space Sigint these infrastructure projects often under the guise of economic and for research Countries giving up 50 year leases to put up a space facility. Why do we have the most space facilities from the P. R. C. In this region?
In the homeland in china?
What are they going through right now?
The largest military buildup in history?
So one should ask themselves why when they have this very capable military, are they putting and trying to gain access to critical infrastructure in other countries across the planet?
So just to take this 11 more step and then we’ll turn to other parts of your other issues in your a r be interested in your assessment of what you see China’s long term military ambitions in Latin America for example, should the United States be worried about the security of the Panama canal. Uh, in, in in immediate we gotta get ready for a challenge terms. I think so. I think that I was just in Panama about a month ago, uh, and the flying along the Panama Canal and looking at all the state owned enterprises from the PRC on each side of the Panama Canal, I worry about the, you know, they look like civilian companies or state owned enterprises that could be used for dual use and could be quickly changed over to a military capability if they needed that too. And so as I look at this, uh, the investment that they make, it looks like, again, they’re investing. I look at it as extracting and so, uh, I think we should be concerned. But this is a global problem. It’s not just in my region. It’s not just in the end of pacific this is a global issue. This is the same playbook that they’ve used in Africa. Asia, Europe. It’s not new. We’re about 5-10 years in this region behind Africa. But I think that again, I talk about, we know what’s going on east west a lot, But not right in our own neighborhood. I can fly to 80% of this region From Miami in 2 to 3 hours. That’s pretty close. That’s really close. If you really think about that same time zone, give or take maybe an hour. It it is. You know, if we just think about all the things that we’ve talked about, it’s very concerning and then you just ask yourself why when you talk about the rules based international order, I think the uh the PRC china would like to replace the United States that is our goal and they’re well on their way to try to do that. But I’ll tell you the power of partnerships in this region. When I travel and I meet with these leaders, I look at them in their eyes. I try to understand their challenges through their lens. How do they see it?
Because I know how I see it and we know how we see things. But if you’re really gonna get after their challenges and help them, you have to look, you have to look at it and understand their perspective. I went in um one of the Ministers of Defense that I was meeting with and um he had a map on the wall, a big map, a lot of us in the military have maps all the time that we that we showcase and put him nice pretty frames and everything. And he had this map of the southern cone in Antarctica and he flipped it around. It was upside down the way how we normally look at the globe and articles at the bottom, right?
It was at the top and the southern cone came up in a, in a point and that’s how he looks at the region. So if we really want to understand our partners, we gotta understand their challenges. But they want to partner with us, make no mistake, they are hungry to partner with us. And when you talk about integrated deterrence and you talk about everybody here, it is not just Department of defense, it is the inter-agency, it is academia, it is industry, it is non-governmental organizations. And I meet with all of them and I try to put all of the, I use them and look at them as levers. You know, what levers do we have to succeed and put this all together?
one minister told me, um, you know, saying alone we’re we’re strong but together we are invincible and he’s exactly right. But just like what we have and we’ve seen the strength of what of NATO as a result of what’s going on in Ukraine and we see that power. But I’ll tell you that our neighborhood and what I’ve described so far is we really have to be careful about our adversaries and our competitors creating that same type of situation right in our neighborhood and very close to our homeland. So let’s talk about the feelings of our neighbors about the United States because they’re complicated to put it mildly and that was evident most recently in June when President Biden hosted the summit of the Americas and Mexico a dominant power in the region, significant player was absent along with some other key countries because they were upset that Cuba Venezuela and others hadn’t been invited, but it surfaced this longstanding decades old century old, um, tension between the United States, this big power to the north and, and our, and our neighbors. And I’m curious about how you deal with that, um, underlying tension, sometimes resentment, uh, and how you think we can begin to, to, to make that better. So I’ll give you Richardson’s for perspective. And as I travel around and I meet with, meet with leaders and one, I’m very, um, respectful when I go in their country, sovereignty is extremely important for our Latin America friends and our friends in the Caribbean, I respect their positions, I approach my visit and my meetings with them from that perspective. I’ve had a couple of countries that I’ve visited and as we’ve had meetings through the day and then we might have a reception that evening or some sort of social gathering. I’ve had a Chief of Defense say, wow, you’re really nice sir. And I was like, hmm, okay, you should tell him you’re an American swimmer too. So it makes me think, what did he expect, what did he expect?
I was gonna do and and how I was gonna be like, I want to be there, you know, I wanna be there partner. I want to partner with them. They want to partner with us. I don’t know what he, you know, expected that I was gonna be um, you know, like I was a big brother coming from the United States that you know, uh, yeah, again it’s a partnership. It’s our neighborhood. You don’t expect that from a neighbor, right?
You expect an understanding, you expect to work with them, understand their challenges. And so I think when you talk about the tension, uh, and how you have to approach things, it’s not that that we are a big brother. We’re a partner and we have respect for them and we need to show that. And I think that just as a premise. Um, and then that’s how you build the relationship. I think that our visits and our key leader engagements as I call them are really important. And when we have visitors that come to Washington, they come all the time. Then we need to meet with them and we need to have the right leaders meet with them. Our competitors are picking up the phone, she Jinping is picking up the phone and calling these leaders and meeting with them and corresponding with them all the time. And we need to do the same and I think we can do better in that respect. So to, to ask a heretical question of the south com commander. Um, should we try to learn a little bit from china, you’re commanding a substantial military presence in effect this great fleet backed by aircraft. All these amazing military assets and the Chinese are out investing. It may be a Pake, it may have dangers. But as you say, they’re engaged in the process of economic development, uh, in a way that arguably we could do a lot better. I’m just curious because you see this region in a way that few us officials do. What do you think?
Is there anything we can learn from what we’re seeing the Chinese doing?
I think the, um, the investment that they have made, one of the levers that I use is the, that I found very helpful is the business executives for national security that will bring together CEOs from companies and, uh, put together a trip into the region. I have one, um, that I’ve worked with with Ben’s on going into Guyana and why is Guyana very important. Well, they just discovered, uh, light, sweet crude, um, right off the shores of their country. And so, you know, that kind of changes the dynamics for them And you want to make sure that they have honest investment. The thing about the United States is, we don’t have strings attached to what we do. We don’t have fine print. We don’t require loans. We don’t require. If we’ll do this for you. If you do this for us, we don’t require that. We are trusted partners. And that’s why folks want to partner with the United States. And so that investment, I think industry and getting those partnerships, we’ve already, we’ve already had a another visit in the fall last year to Panama, you know, to help these countries understand where they are, what they need to do its transparency and being able to advise them with no fine print and no strings attached. And I think that um you know, that’s why I say it’s a call to action for all of us in the room because we’ve got to bring it together. And again, it’s on the 20 yard line. We are in this neighborhood together and we got to have good partners, trusted partners were already a trusted partner. We just got to show it more helpful answer plug for bends headed by former combatant Commander joe votel and an organization that does a lot of good. So something that’s on everybody’s mind this week as we read the news, especially from Europe is global climate change. The news of record, historic temperature highs in in Britain. I think God, everybody’s notice, I want to ask you about your dialogue with leaders in in your region about the effects that climate change will have in Latin America in south and central America are are people beginning to see um evidence of impact. Uh, and obviously a huge issue that we we focus on episodically I’m afraid is the rainforests in the amazon. So climate change is very much alive and well in the region. Obviously the what impacts the United States will generally come up through the Caribbean. Uh, and so those Caribbean, I’m used to saying Caribbean before I got this job, but our partners say Caribbean. So I always, sometimes I have to correct myself. But uh in the Caribbean they are um worried very, very much concerned about the storms, what capabilities that each one of the nations has to provide. Uh, we had a uh, Caribbean national Security conference about six months ago and talked about getting, uh, you know what each country has to respond last year in the earthquake, the Haiti earthquake, there were multiple countries that had capabilities. They don’t have a lot of capability, but they have some capability. And again, uh, you put all that together and then you have a, you have a strong capability, nobody has enough to be able to respond. And Uh, in order to withstand uh, you know, a strong storm. I could talk about Eta and Œπ in 2020 crushed the south America in Honduras for example, still have tarps on the roof. Things like that. They still haven’t recovered for that. You had Covid on top of that. You talk about the uh, the drought corridor that we have that’s in Mexico down through Central America provides, not provides Causes food insecurity for about eight million people. So this is very, very much a part of this region when you can’t get food. You can’t get healthcare. You have, you don’t feel safe, you feel insecure. I could add transnational criminal organizations in there that provide insecurity and instability. It causes people to move, they’re gonna go somewhere where they can get food, where they can get health care, where they can feel safe and live and thrive with their kids and their family. And this causes this irregular migration. So very much a part of what our region faces and faces every single day. And we’re trying to help them be stronger encounter that. So as I listen to you talk about those threats, I’m wondering if South com and other combatant commands need to have as one of their uh mission priorities in terms of our national security, engaging these climate change issues on the ground?
I mean, the thing about about a cocom is uh you have resources, you can get places in a hurry, you can connect um our government as a whole often isn’t as as flexible should should should we bump climate change and its impact up on our list of national security priorities in your in your region and around the world. Absolutely. And so Climate Defense is already a program that Department of Defense has South com has it as a priority. And uh and working with our partner nations uh making our own forces uh stronger and withstand being able to withstand uh stronger storms. How do you respond?
Uh and and make sure you’re strong and can withstand the harsh environment that some of these storms bring. Um all of those things. We wrap up in their illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, for example, all of those things that go into um uh and I find quite honestly that some of these other topics really resonate with our partners because it takes away revenue that they have, but it’s absolutely at the top of the list. I was very, you know, I wasn’t able to uh Department of Defense wasn’t part of some of the Americas, but we were able to participate in a climate climate change forum the week prior and I got to be the keynote speaker amongst a lot of scientists and experts on climate and these kinds of things. And I was the only general speaking to this group and I told him, I said, I bet you’re wondering why there’s a four star general talking to you today. But I got to share all of the things that we’re doing in South com and the Department of Defense does to help our partners withstand all of these things. And uh it was a great opportunity to talk about it. But just then, you know, educate and inform again, it goes back to all of us working together as part of the integrated deterrence. I want to take advantage of general Richardson’s being with us to ask about a couple of specific countries that matter. But don’t often get discussed in the foreign policy gatherings that I attend And I want to start with Colombia Colombia is a country where we’ve had a significant engagement for a long time. Colombia just elected its most left wing president in a long time. I’m going to say decades at least. Um Gustavo Petro will take office next month. He’s already talking about improving Colombia’s relations with Venezuela. So I’m wondering as this new political figure enters on the horizon, you don’t do policy obviously, but I’m wondering whether from your perspective as South com commander, these changes in Colombia make you look at, at Columbia and the challenges in a new way. I think if we’re um, in terms of looking at Colombia, Colombia is a great news story. Oh my gosh, off the charts, the capabilities of their military, uh, they are an exporter of security. They train other partner nation militaries to be strong. They run, I mean, I’m a helicopter pilot. We used to have the Spanish speaking part of flight school uh, in the United States at Fort Rucker Alabama. Um, Columbia took that on in 2019. They train all of our helicopter pilots. That’s a huge great story again, you know, as we work with our partner nations, it’s about being sincere. We will work with our partner nations. We have a strong relationship. We just celebrated the 200th anniversary of Colombia and the United States as this year. And so you talk about the ties that that we have, we fought side by side with them in war already, this is a huge country, it’s an opportunity, a call to action, a call to opportunity. And we will be there to work with this partner nation regardless of what administration is there. And so I have, we, I think we have a lot to offer. And again, it’s with no strings attached, it’s with no fine print and we already have a well-established relationship with them. So the other key actor in the region, um, that we worry about from a national security standpoint is Venezuela. And I want to ask you about how you assess, uh, in in strict national security terms, the danger that Venezuela poses. Uh, and, and and if that’s a less dramatic danger than sometimes portrayed, I’d be interested in hearing that as well. We just had several months ago decision by the Biden administration to allow encourage chevron to extend an oil lease um, in Venezuela, which which made some people wonder if maybe a slightly different shape to, to policy might be ahead. But again, from your perspective as our, as our combatant commander, how do you assess Venezuela right now, I would say the Venezuela has caused a lot of instability in the region, it’s caused a lot of migration, It has caused the other countries around it that our neighbors and some that aren’t even neighbors, Uh, to have take on the migration issue as a result of Venezuela, when you talk about six million coming out of Venezuela, and then the countries in brazil and Colombia, uh in chile and the other countries in South America and Central America, taking this on, that’s again, I go back to the covid impacts already and they’re struggling being able to provide. And so this is just an added uh, added, um, you know, but they’re doing it and they’re doing it and they know that the reason that they have to do it and they’re taking, they’re trying to take care of the neighborhood and they’re doing the best they can. But this is an additional challenge that they have to take on. And the other countries are doing a great job of this, having this resolved peacefully and democratically is obviously where we want to go with Venezuela. And um I meet in Venezuela in uh, in Miami, a lot of the different diasporas in Miami, there are a lot of folks from Venezuela and Miami and a lot of them still have family in Venezuela. And if that uh, situation could be resolved democratically, that’s what we would all strive and hope that actually happens. But I will tell you that just on the, you know, again, I go back to when people don’t feel safe, they can’t get healthcare, they can’t get basic needs, they leave the country and they’re on the move. And it absolutely contributes to their regular migration, I’m gonna go to the audience in just a minute or two for your questions. So be thinking this is a chance to ask about about a region we don’t get to talk about off often enough. But before I do that, I want to piggyback on a question that Courtney QB asked a few minutes ago of General Brown uh talking about the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court. And uh General Brown is Air Force Chief of Staff. You have in a sense of more direct immediate relationship with thousands of people who are part of South common, including some uh women in service who who may be concerned about the impact of that decision. Um South based in in Florida, but it’s a raid across the south and then in your A. O. R what what can you tell us about the kind of guidance that you’re giving to your colleagues, if any, about how to deal with this. The concerns you have going forward about, about taking care of all of your personnel, um and and their health needs. Yeah. So the, taking care of people obviously in the in the army anyway, the, you know, we’re not, we’re about people, the people in our service are really our weapons system. And so taking care of people is extremely important. Uh, CQ said the, you know, he’s a service chief and those service chiefs, uh they train and equip our forces and then the combat commanders are the are the customers of the service chiefs and things like that. And so we have to just do the best that we can based on the decisions that are made by our country to take care of our people. And bottom line, the services have to put the policies in place and the department and then we will follow in line with that as we receive personnel in our region and take care of them and just just take this a step further. I’m sure you’ve gotten questions from your from your staff about this. It’s something the whole country has been asking about. What do you tell him?
Well, I think that the we watched the debates on the news, we see the different arguments that happen. And um and I think that the as the decision is made, uh the policies will put in place and uh and we’ve got to trust in our leaders and the policies for our Department of Defense as we move forward and then we take care of our people. So I hope people have been thinking about questions and have somebody see jane Harman and let me start with jane. Well, thank you very much. That was very interested, interesting. Glad you made it, David. 1st, I hope you’ll tell us what happened to your teenage daughter, how she turned out. But um, I’m really asking about the southern border of the United States. Uh Secretary Mayorkas wasn’t asked about that much yesterday when he was questioned. I understand that’s much more of a of of an issue for the Department of Homeland Security. But the pictures and the stories are everywhere. And I have to believe that people in your A. O. R. Are very aware of our border policies and some of the confusion and some of the uh personal tragedies and the rest. And I just wonder, what do you say about that and what activities do you undertake uh to if if you do to uh explain our policies to the the countries that you deal with. So the in terms of that’s um right. And some of the things that I described about their regular migration uh and certainly when I was in North calm in my previous job uh and uh being uh up front close and personal with the Southwest border uh and seeing the challenges that we have and then realizing that a lot of that comes from now, the South com region uh up to up to the Southwest border. And so again, what we try to do in South commons, we work with our partner nations right as they handle the migration problem and they handle insert uh internal security problems is to make them stronger and uh to work with them. Talk about human rights, the rule of law. Uh everything that we talk about, train train advise assist the security cooperation, the exercises that we do makes them stronger to deal with these problems, Deal with their borders, deal with their other neighbors as uh as the uh as we know, going through South America if we have migration up through Colombia into Panama and over they all have a very uh good perspective in terms of how that translates and how it happens and then how it impacts them specifically in each one of those countries. It’s different. And um so as I meet with them, I talk to them about that. But then we also it’s not just about talking about it. It’s about, you know, how do we make them stronger to handle their own problems?
So we don’t have to help them even more. And so that’s really what we try to do in uh in South com. Let’s take a couple more questions before lunch. I saw a gentleman in the first row. Sorry. So yes, over by the window. Yeah. Got to see two of you there first and then the gentleman behind you. Thank you Marcus Oliver from the government accountability office. And I just wanted to ask General Richardson just I guess what are some of the challenges that sort of you face in managing the sort of Gitmo mission set um sort of given the sort of lack of maybe clear direction from the president on that mission as well as a lack of consensus on that mission from the hill. Okay. I think I heard most of that. But um I think in terms of the uh JTf Gitmo or the Gitmo question, um, the thing is, is that our mission is to provide the safe legal and humane treatment of the detainees that are there. And so that’s what our mission revolves around. And all the other decisions that are policy decisions. We just execute that mission and we execute it to the best of our ability and uh, make sure that it’s the safe, humane and legal treatment of of those of those detainees and those other decisions and and discussions and arguments and things like that. Uh, that is at the policy level. And yes, gentleman, right behind you. Thanks, David. Thanks General Kevin Baron from Defense one. I wanna going back to the immigration migration border security question walk us through some of the myths versus realities of the security threats that you see from the entire chain of migration, as we hear them in the public discourse versus as a security professional cocom commander. How you view them. And when you talk about also, you talked about a lot today of the nonmilitary ways and investments that that you can alleviate security concerns in south in the south. I’ve heard that for many years for 20 years from all of your predecessors in this that same role, but it doesn’t seem to resonate at least in Congress or maybe with American people. How do you think you can maybe move the ball more than in the past to really push for, you know, for other kinds of foreign investment or U. S. Government investment that’s nonmilitary to get to the same goals you’re mentioning. Yeah. So thanks for that. Great question. And so um I like to uh just in terms of the, when I talk about the integrated deterrents, it’s really I look at that as all of the levers out there, all of the elements of national power that we have in the United States to bring to bear. And that when we talk about um you know how we can help different countries for example we have agreements with academia And you’re like Okay what does that mean?
South has agreements with academia but uh global fishing watch for example, if I talk about illegal and regulated on reported fishing right takes 33 billion in revenue away from our partner nations. So if we have if we’re able to see something from the domain awareness that we do have as a co com and working with our academia and working with Global Fishing watch. So we have the in the academia part, University of Miami and Florida International University of Agreement and we can expose this malign activity right?
Because people don’t like to be exposed when they’re when they’re behaving in ways they’re not supposed to right?
I don’t we don’t need the credit in South Com but we will certainly give that information either to our partner nations or to NGOs or through our academia uh to get that message out there when you talk about insecurity and instability, right, $310 billion dollar revenue business a year. It’s off the charts. It’s not just counternarcotics, it’s human trafficking, it’s illegal logging, illegal mining, uh you you fishing uh it is a whole host of things. And so um this is uh in my mind, it creates the wedge, the insecurity and the instability that our partner nations, not our partner nations but our adversaries capitalize upon and um and then they flourish right?
And make that even a bigger wedge for them to be able to undermine us objectives, undermine our relationships, undermine uh the objectives that we have in the region. You know, I talked earlier about the PRC is playing chess while Russia is playing checkers, right?
And they have short term goals in terms of undermining our democracy Uh causing destabilization through the information environment. Off the charts in this region, over 30 million followers in social media, Sputnik Mundo Russia today espanol very very prevalent. We are not in competition in that space. We are in conflict in the information environment. And when I bring this up some, most of the countries are very, very aware of this but making them stronger in order to be able to counter this. When I bring up disinformation, they’ll say, oh fake news and I’m like yeah, you could say that, but the, you know, how do we band together in terms of all domains um with our partner nations being stronger. It’s not just in the information space, it’s not just in the air domain or the C domain. In terms of counter narcotics. I mean it is the whole gamut is cyber, it’s space. It’s we have a lot of things to get after and we have to work together as a team for our neighborhood um to take away from me. We are not in competition. We are in conflict in the information space. I’ve been signaled that we’ve run out of time. I recognized a woman who was standing in the back next to the pillar. Can you ask a brief question and we’ll ask General Richardson to give a brief answer. And then it’s lunch time. Thank you. Thanks for your awareness and your your so informative, general and good questions, David. But my question is, is there a way to get a general honor kind of guy in Latin America Central America where we can give more security?
And there was a time American business. Got tax deductions to go to china. Well, is there a way to work something out like that and we can be less dependent on china last word. Can you raise your hand where you are?
There we go. Okay. I thought that might be you. Okay. Uh so in terms of working with the inter-agency, I would like to just um let you know that we’re we are very much involved with the inter-agency, I think that we can do better, but we have to continue to provide forums where we can collaborate and so in May at South com we hosted the all of the Chiefs of Mission from this region Uh at South Com. So we had the ambassadors and the charges. Oh by the way, we have 12 ambassadors that still need to get in the seat. So I would appreciate your integrated deterrence and helping to reinforce the priority of getting our ambassadors in their seats. It’s kind of like me not being here for South com and having an acting or a deputy that’s in my seat. Very, very important. But go back to the interagency. We host, we had over 60 inter Asian inter agency that were there at this, at this conference that we held and we had commerce, we had Treasury, we had justice, um and we hold a law enforcement working group as well. I have, I think about 15 interagency. Ellen knows that work out of the South com headquarters already. And but when you’re talking about the uh village illegitimate or the Uh money laundering, um that takes place in our region as well. If I go back to the $310 billion dollar business and money laundering and those kinds of really complex challenges. We have to continue to work collaboratively with the interagency to move the ball down the field. So I appreciate your question. Um, and uh, and we’ll continue to work all of those angles and issues. So it is lunchtime thanks to General Laura Richardson, for a wonderful chance to talk about what we don’t talk about enough. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Thanks. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You sure?