Laura Richardson, the head of the US Southern Command overseeing US military operations and cooperation in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, emphasized the need for American countries to unite in combating increasingly powerful transnational criminal organizations. Richardson, a four-star general, made these statements during her visit to Uruguay this week.
She highlighted the current influence of transborder criminal groups, noting their diversification beyond activities like drug trafficking and human trafficking to include illegal mining, Amazon deforestation, product counterfeiting, and money laundering. To break this “vicious circle,” Richardson called for hemisphere-wide collaboration, urging the sharing of information and resources to leave no room for criminals to act.
She also emphasized the importance of tracking the revenue sources of these groups, estimated to exceed $300 billion annually. Richardson discussed these matters with Uruguayan officials during her visit, addressing concerns about the rising threat of narcotics trafficking in the region.
When asked about potential US assistance in combating drug trafficking in Uruguay, Richardson affirmed the United States’ readiness to help if requested. She underscored the sovereignty of Uruguay and emphasized that any assistance would be contingent on a formal request from the country.
Richardson recalled examples of US support for Uruguay, including the donation of three Protector-class 87-foot boats by the Coast Guard in November 2022 and two Metal Shark fast boats delivered in 2019 by the Office of Defense Cooperation.
During her visit, Richardson met with Uruguay’s Minister of Defense, Javier García, as well as other high-ranking officials. She acknowledged ongoing collaboration with the Uruguayan Armed Forces and received reports on their requirements and needs.
Richardson’s visit, her first since assuming the position in 2021, concluded with a donation of firefighting equipment worth $800,000. The general, the first woman to lead the Southern Command, has been actively engaging with South American countries to enhance regional security cooperation.
The visit drew attention from Uruguay’s labor union, PIT-CNT, which claimed that the true goal of the US is to access freshwater resources and establish a military base in Uruguay—a notion vehemently denied by General Richardson.