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first_img The United States National Guard’s State Partnership Program (SPP) partners U.S. states with foreign nations to promote and enhance bilateral relations. Sixty-two countries are currently linked to 48 states, 2 territories (Puerto Rico and Guam), and Washington D.C.. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 15 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. help increase the capacity and capabilities of 20 partner countries. The SPP reflects an evolving international affairs mission for the National Guard, promoting regional stability and civil-military relationships. State partners actively participate in numerous engagement activities including bilateral familiarization and training events, exercises, leader mentorships, and support to other security cooperation activities, including emergency management, disaster response, border and port security, leadership and NCO development, medical capacity, and developing the capabilities of peacekeeping operations. Examples of this cooperation include the New Hampshire National Guard assisting El Salvador to improve their disaster relief capabilities, the New Mexico National Guard working with Costa Rica on drug demand reduction, and the Louisiana National Guard partnering with Belize in support of reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Other partnerships projects include: Counter Illicit Trafficking: Costa Rica: The Central American country estimates that about 180,000 residents (out of a population of 4.5 million) are drug users and about 27 to 50 die each year from overdoses. Costa Rica is a transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America. Illicit production of cannabis in remote areas and domestic cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising. The New Mexico National Guard assists Costa Rica with counterdrug efforts. Peacekeeping Operations: Through the State Partnership Program the National Guard has contributed to the training of over 3,500 partner personnel who are directly contributing to the following United Nations peace keeping missions: MINUSTAH (Haiti), MONUSCO (Rep. of Congo) and UNIFIL (Lebanon). Humanitarian Assistance: Louisiana National Guard joined forces with their partner, the Belize Defence Forces to build four engineering projects in Haiti as part of New Horizons 2010 exercise. The State Partnership Program enables the National Guard to further define and fulfill its collective role as a goodwill ambassador around the world. Guard members apply military and civilian skills to foster democracy, encourage economic development and promote regional cooperation and stability. Nations interested in joining the SPP program, can contact the United States Southern Command State Partnership Program office at: 305-437-3352. For more information visit: http://www.ng.mil/news/SPP/default.aspx By Dialogo March 24, 2011last_img read more