Es un privilegio para Fortin Mapocho ofrecer a sus lectores un excelente análisis acerca de materias de defensa realizado por Armen Kouyoumdjian. Esperamos en los próximos números continuar con la información sobre materias de seguridad nacional en nuestro hemisferio y análisis sobre la situación internacional, prosiguiendo con la amplia cobertura que hemos dado al conflicto en el medio oriente.
CHILEAN MONTHLY DEFENCE REVIEW: SEPTEMBER 2006. An update of military administration, economics, politics, sociology by Armen Kouyoumdjian. September 1 , 2006
ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS As crises go, it was not a major one, but it still marks the first top level casualty in the Defence Ministry. Just 2 weeks short of completing 6 months in the job, Carabinero undersecretary Marcelo Ortiz resigned on August 28. He had apparently been sending political messages from his office, trying to keep his image alive among Christian Democrat voters in the Santiago district where he failed to gain a congressional seat. He did not go quietly, complaining that he had not been given a chance to explain himself. His successor, announced three days
later, is a 34-year old woman, politically classified as 'independent', although she is married to a nephew of former president Frei Jr. Javiera Blanco Suarez was hitherto in charge of planning at Paz Ciudadana, a foundation dedicated to citizens' security.
We are again promised before year-end the legislation on professionalising the army, involving an increase to 5,200 in the number of enlisted soldiers [from the current 2,000] , by 2010, at which time the number of conscripts
would be down to 10,000. At a recent congressional committee meeting on the proposals to reform military service, broadcast live, U/sec for the Army
Gonzalo Garcia looked defensively awkward, as he answered searching questions from the honourable members. These included accusations that conscripts who had an accident when travelling to join their units when called-up, had no medical or insurance cover.
Higher up the line of command, as the yearly process of retirement and promotion gets under way, the army has announced that it will retire more colonels this year, in order to try to lighten its top-heavy upper echelons. General Izurieta said that 'the army had nothing to hide', adding that a special forces unit was being set up.
The Comunidad de Defensa think tank which plans to bring together all those analysts, academics, professionals and parliamentarians interested in the theme, is making progress in its structuring and its promoters hope to launch it at an October seminar.
FINANCE & PROCUREMENT Figures from CODELCO's half-year statement differed from those of the Budget Directorate, in terms of the amount accruing in
the first half from the Copper Law. The state mining group says its disbursement was 60 % up to U$ 615 million. Interestingly, the price of copper was 82 % up during the period so there obviously was a drop in export volume.
The future of the Copper Law continues to cause declarations and speculation, and I agree with Minister Blanlot when she predicted on August 11 that its navigation through Congress will be 'the mother of all battles'. I fear, and I have said this many times before, that it may end up the same way as Saddam Hussein's challenge on another front. In a later
declaration, the minister said that once the law goes through, any accumulated monies unspent from previous years would 'be transferred to the Treasury'. I am not a lawyer, but I fear that this would be a totally unconstitutional act of retroactive sequestration of money legally accrued
for military procurement under the old system [unless it is specifically set aside to pay the accumulated debts still outstanding at the time of the system change].
Ms. Blanlot also repeated that the satellite project [which some say has been indefinitely postponed] will be financed off-budget. I can only repeat my amazement at the contradiction between the attempt to transfer it to civilian control, and at the same time pretend that this floating high altitude Polaroid camera is a weapons system. The Navy is cleverly planning
a 9 MW wind-powered generating system to supply some of its installations, at a cost of U$ 18 million.
The Navy shipyards ASMAR lost a contract to refit Ecuador's missile boats to Israeli competition recently. The Israeli defence industry is ruthlessly aggressive in its marketing. There are reports that a Chilean army contract
for telecom equipment won by Israel's TADIRAN was so problematic that the high command has ordered an inquiry into it.
Negotiations should also be taking place about maintenance contracts for the first Scorpene submarine, whose guarantee is coming to an end, and the new Dutch frigates. Some sources say these are not being conducted diligently enough. There are unconfirmed reports that the former British
Type 22 frigate Williams suffered some sort of mishap during the recent Panamax exercise.
Six more F-16 fighters should be delivered in coming weeks, hoping that a full mixed squadron of new and used aircraft can take part in the September 19 military parade. On September 7, the senate's defence committee is to
visit Iquique air base where the F-16 are based.
An imminent announcement is expected about the purchase by Carabineros of four Agusta Westland A-109 helicopters. These were already budgeted for in the normal expenditure plans, as the police forces do not participate on the largesse of the Copper Fund [maybe that is one aspect which could
easily be reformed].
DISCIPLINARY CORNER Army commander in chief Gal Izurieta was put in a tight corner when asked what the plans were with respect to funeral arrangements for Gal Pinochet [who when last heard was still very much
alive]. He tried what is called in French a 'réponse de normand', saying that if he had not been convicted of any crime at the time of his death, he would have the honours to which former commanders-in-chief were entitled.
This has sparked a row which is still going-on.
Responsible for the 1998 Pinochet arrest in London, Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon visited Chile this week, and was given the red carpet treatment. Among the notable exceptions was Senador Evelyn Matthei. This is the same woman who in 1998 threatened to 'make life impossible' for Spanish and
British diplomats in Santiago, in full breach of all diplomatic conventions [which the Chilean government in any case treats with a cavalier attitude in many other respects and privileges. This is so much so, that EU ambassadors are lobbying Brussels to issue a formal complaint to the Chilean government as to how foreign diplomats are treated in Chile. In one recent example, a carabinero officer threatened with arrest the driver of a foreign ambassador waiting outside a government office to which the diplomat had been summoned. Said office had no parking facility]. Returning
to Mrs. Matthei, this time, she mouthed insults against Garzon, adding that she wanted to throw an egg at his face.
This only reflects that modern medicine has yet to fully control the side effects of severe menopause affliction.
Voting has been delayed once again on ratifying the International Criminal Court. The Defence and Foreign Relations committees of the Senate are to
examine next Tuesday the 'possible impact on the security of the hemisphere' and the 'implications in terms of Chile's defence'.
Wow, they should really be worried about losing the U$ 2.5 million a year US military assistance, when they received U$ 3.3 million per day from the Copper fund in the first semester. I can just imagine the lobbying behind the scenes. The commissions are heavily weighed with conservative members.
Meanwhile, the Navy, which was so shy in tackling fishing pirates in the bay of Talcahuano, was involved in a shoot-out with fishermen protesting about plans to unload waste from the CELCO paper mill unto their fishing grounds .
During his early years in Chile, this analyst was [several times] victim of louche associations of retired military personnel prying on the unsuspecting,. It seems I am in good company. No less than 2,100 retired military personnel are accusing the directors of one of their associations,
Corporacion Antartica, of having siphoned-off funds belonging to them.
INTERNAL SECURITY There are nearly as many contradictory declarations on the fate of the stillborn Ministry of Public Security [about which early doubts were raised in these reports, where you always read the news first],
as for the Copper Law. I would still bet that it will not see the light of day under this administration. At least not the way it is envisaged now.
The scandal at the Carabinero hospital was obviously of major proportions, and the U/Sec in charge of the institution admitted that its health system had become 'unsustainable'. Quite frankly, I think the only reform to the Copper Law should be to split the funds four ways instead of three, and
allocate the additional quarter to the police forces. At least one carabinero was recently dismissed when he complained that he had been on duty round the clock for four days with little food.
As hinted in these pages at an early stage, and despite a last minute 'final decision' meeting which was to be held these days at the Defence Ministry, it seems that Chile has wisely decided not to take part for the time being in the UNIFIL force to Lebanon. It is just as well, because the civilians' knowledge of the conflict is pathetic. Former Haiti Gauleiter
Juan Gabriel Valdés declared that it was 'a conflict 500 or 1,000 years old'. Really..Has he heard about the Balfour declaration?
The Commander in Chief of the Bolivian army visited Chile on August 20, and was a guest of honour at the yearly commemoration of Bernardo O'Higgins. In
turn, Chilean U/sec for the Army, Gonzalo García, attended a seminar on mutual confidence building measures in the Bolivian town of Santa Cruz. This was sponsored by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation [I am glad
somebody gets invited to their activities].
Earlier, the head of the Malaysian Navy had also been in town. Apart from the common British inheritance in both navies, Chile and Malaysia are both equipping with the Scorpene submarine. This and other fields may give
opportunities for cooperation. The Argentine police has been training its Chilean counterpart in 'express' kidnappings, a genre well established in the neighbouring country, which seems to have now entered the Chilean criminal scene.
With a year and a half to go until the next FIDAE 2008 air fair, it is announced that 57 % of exhibition space has already been sold.
REGIONAL NEWS There is quite a bit of news related to Argentina. A supposed Russian offer of 'arms for food' caused quite a bit of journalistic stir, though it remains unclear how the two can be matched.
Arms are bought by government, and the government does not produce food. Together with Brazil, the country decided not to send UNIFIL troops to Lebanon. In conjunction with Brazil and Paraguay, it is taking part in a regional criminal intelligence centre to be based in the Brazilian town of
Foz de Iguazu. Last but not least, there is a press agency report that an Israeli diplomat carrying explosives was arrested at Ezeiza airport on August 9, as he was about to board a flight to Chile. Embassy security guards accompanying him apparently tried in vain to prevent the arrest.Interestingly, my attempts to confirm the story with trusted sources on both sides of the border were met with complete silence.
The final 2005 defence and internal security expenditure details were approved by the Comptroller's office in early August. Last year, Argentina spent some U$ 3.3 bn [U$ 1.8 bn on the military and 1.5 bn on internal security]. Of the total, less than U$ 25 million was spent on new weapons.
The Intelligence Secretariat [SIDE] spent nearly U$ 80 million. Military and police pensions accounted for just under U$ 800 million.
In Bolivia, as policemen staged a strike in the three main cities, it was announced that both the military and the police are to get an assigned share of oil and gas revenue. They are already getting wage increases of up to 19.4 %. Brazil is receiving on September 4 the first two Mirage 2000
from a batch of 12 ex-French Air Force ordered a year ago. Deliveries of the remainder will stretch to end 2008. Ecuador is closing down 15 military positions on its border with Peru, and moving troops to the more conflictive border with Colombia. As for Peru, its air force suffered yet
another crash on August 20, when an A-37 taking part in the 9-country Cruzex exercise in Brazil hit the ground. Cruzex is a French-sponsored series of air exercises, probably designed as a counterpoint to the US-sponsored naval ones such as UNITAS and its derivatives. The crew of two
were killed. It has also transpired that the Peruvian army provided helicopters to transport goods for the Tijuana drugs cartel. Despite all this, the military chiefs were all confirmed in their posts by the new president. There was criticism from some circles on the appointment of human rights lawyer Renzo Chin as Secretary General to the Defence
ministry. The new minister said that his department will be completely reorganised within 300 days, after detecting cases of corruption and other irregularities.
Defence minister Allan Wagner had recognised on August 7 that a lack of resources was impeding the military from carrying out their duties. He added on the 29th that the country will recover its defence capacity, but
without indulging in 'surrealist purchases'. U$ 650 million is to be spent over the next 5 years. All this penny-pinching is surprising, as the country has the healthiest fiscal results in the region after Chile. The Navy received its third LUPO frigate on August 18, and the fourth one is expected before the end of the year.
BOOK REVIEW an excellent book recently published by LOM is of great interest to those who want to know more about the evolution of military-civilian relationships in Chile since 1990. This compact work [La Transición de los Militares] is written by Claudio Fuentes, director of