By U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs/Edited by Diálogo Staff August 31, 2020 U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) hosted defense leaders from South America August 27 during the first virtual South America Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC), focused on how to strengthen defense partnerships in a pandemic environment.The command invited chiefs of Defense from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Paraguay, Suriname, and Uruguay to the annual conference, as well as Defense leaders from Canada, French Guiana, Spain, and the United Kingdom.U.S. Navy Admiral Craig Faller, SOUTHCOM commander, hosted the forum. He was joined by U.S. leaders and security experts from the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies.SOUTHCOM sponsors this annual regional conference to facilitate an open and candid dialogue between the region’s top military leaders. The leaders share security cooperation ideas, perspectives, expertise and experiences, as they seek to improve their collective understanding of regional threats and security challenges.This year, SOUTHDEC’s participants discussed their support of the region’s ongoing response to the pandemic and law enforcement-led operations against transnational criminal organizations.Since March, SOUTHCOM has worked with partner nations in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean to support their COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts. Under its Humanitarian Assistance Program, the command has purchased and donated supplies, equipment and other vital resources to support the efforts of 28 nations.“We have extended that enduring hand of friendship […] with humanitarian assistance donations now totaling around $17 million across 300 projects to help friends in need,” Adm. Faller said.In April, the White House announced the start of SOUTHCOM-led enhanced counternarcotics operations to degrade the capabilities of drug trafficking organizations, save lives, and directly support its National Drug Control Strategy. To date, the internationally supported enhanced operations, along with Colombia’s Operation Orion V, have helped law enforcement authorities disrupt or seize more than 154 metric tons of cocaine and more than 40,000 pounds of marijuana, a loss of more than $4 billion in criminal profits for transnational criminal organizations.