Senior police chiefs and other law enforcement officials from across the Americas have gathered in Uruguay’s resort town of Punta del Este to address some of the region’s most pressing organized crime and terrorism issues.

The three-day Interpol Americas Regional Conference follows the recent Operación Libertad that rescued some 350 potential victims of sexual exploitation and forced labor across the Caribbean, Central, and South America. “This conference will be dealing with issues of great importance for our citizens,” said Uruguay’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rodolfo Nin Novoa, during the opening ceremony. “Interpol strengthens the necessary dialogue between countries to ensure effective and efficient information exchange to tackle organized crime.”

Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said that building on regional strengths is essential for a strong global security architecture which is responsive to the evolving threat landscape. “The weaponizing of technology means that drugs trafficking is becoming as easy as placing an order on a smartphone,” said Stock.

More than 80 participants from 31 countries are taking part in this high profile conference.

“When crimes are being committed at the touch of a button, law enforcement needs to ensure its response is as swift and effective. This is why Interpol is developing a new device which will enable police anywhere in the world to have remote access to our databases as well as biometric capabilities,” added Stock.

According to Interpol, an internationally wanted murder suspect in Buenos Aires was arrested earlier this year after his image was identified as a potential match by the agency’s facial recognition unit. The 33-year-old Slovak national was wanted with a red-notice by Czech authorities and had been on the run following a murder 10-years ago.

The conference started a week after Ecuador’s High Court of Justice asked Interpol to arrest former President Rafael Correa, currently living in Belgium (his wife’s homeland), for allegedly orchestrating a kidnapping in 2012 of the former opposition congressman Fernando Balda, who fled to Colombia after serving a two year prison term for slander against the leftist president. Correa was in office from 2007 to 2017.

On Sunday, July 8, a coordinated effort between Interpol and Colombia’s Special Migration Task Force (GEM) also managed to capture José Ramón Franco, a 44-year old Venezuelan citizen who was wanted with a red notice for drug trafficking. Franco was arrested while crossing the Simón Bolívar bridge that connects Venezuela with Colombia in the city of Cucuta.

Delegates are also being briefed on the creation of Interpol’s counter-terrorism division in South America, and one of several around the world, that will work closely with the agency’s Global Counter-Terrorism Centre in Lyon, France.