Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Subway Bombing Shatters Calm in Chile

The rash of bombings sweeping Chile took a frightening turn after an explosive blew up in a subway station, leaving as many as 14 people hurt. The Sept. 8 blast was far more serious than earlier explosions because it caused many casualties, and it took place in the middle of a crowded area. The bomb was left inside a trash can in a shopping and dining area of a subway station in the upscale Las Condes neighborhood of Santiago. The government said it will apply the anti-terrorism law to investigate the bombing, which grants police special powers, such as holding suspects without formal charges. As they denounced the attack, officials also sought to reassure a public that now feels much less secure. The government also is worried that its image as a safe country, which has encouraged foreign investment and tourism, has taken a damaging blow. Chileans have another reason to feel less secure. Despite some 30 bombings this year, investigators have no suspects and few clues. Chile's intelligence community was stripped of most of its powers after the end of military rule, but now it seems inadequate to deal with terrorism. Police searching for the bombers are barred from using phone taps, infiltration and some other intelligence methods. Investigators are not even sure if multiple anarchist groups are involved, or if it's the same ones going by different names. Nearly 200 bombings or attempted bombings have occurred in Chile since 2005, yet only two suspects have ever been convicted. One of them was an unlucky bomber whose explosive blew up on him. If you happen to live in Santiago, there's reason to be worried about your police's effectiveness. Update: Anarchist cells have denied responsibility for the subway bombing. Meanwhile, the FBI is assisting Chilean authorities in the investigation.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chile's Army Hits the Big Screen

A short film about the Army and its role in Chilean society will be shown in theaters in Chile. The seven-minute movie, set to run in 75 screens nationwide, is also a recruitment tool, says Army chief Gen. Humberto Oviedo. The film (a short version is on Vimeo) includes images of Army personnel providing medical aid, mine-clearing, peacekeeping and, of course, shooting off lots of guns. The Army hasn't had a shortage of volunteers, so the project is a bit curious, unless its aim is to reach out broadly to citizens. The Army has produced promotional videos before, but this is the first time it is going to the big screen. On You Tube, there are dozens of amateur videos about Chile's armed forces, most of them big on bravado and low on quality. But there is one video I found that stands out for its cinematic quality. The video seems to have been produced independently. The country's military service administration has come out with its own recruitment video, and it did a good job with it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Army Requests Details on Transport Planes

The Army sent out requests in May to various aircraft manufacturers for details on medium transport airplanes, an initial step in the purchase of new aircraft. The manufacturers have responded, and each model is now being evaluated, according to a report in Diario Financiero. The request for information marked the first concrete step toward the planned purchase of at least four medium transports. Airbus and Alenia were among the companies contacted. Alenia builds the Spartan C27J while Airbus makes the rival C-295. The Army asked for details on each model's medical, firefighting, paratroop and other configurations, the report said. The C-212 light transports have been retired, leaving just a couple of C-235 planes in the Army fleet.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bombings Damaging Nerves, Chile's Reputation

Chile's government is worried its reputation as a safe country is being damaged by the recent wave of bombings in the Santiago metropolitan area. A number of bomb threats also is putting people on edge. The U.S., Canada U.K., Australia and Belgium have warned their citizens about the danger of terrorist bombs in Chile. That prompted Chile's top law enforcement official to try to calm foreigners' fears, telling reporters that Chile is a country where visitors don't need to be fearful, and that a massive hunt is on for the bombers. Interior Minister Rodrigo PeƱailillo cited Chile's relatively low homicide rate and a coordinated effort to identify suspects. A special prosecutor was appointed. Nearly 30 bombs or incendiary devices have detonated so far this year.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Chile's New Security Problem: A Wave of Bombings

Chile's security forces have a new problem on their hands. So far this year, 15 bombs have detonated in a terror campaign striking the metropolitan area. The Santiago subway was bombed last month, although the device went off after the final stop of the night. A subway worker spotted a suspicious backpack, and the explosive in it detonated before the bomb squad arrived. Investigators have linked the wave of bombings to anarchists avenging the conviction of three of their members and the arrest of two others in Spain. Pamphlets left at church bombing specifically mentioned the Spanish case. The blasts, police say, show that anarchist cells that were believed to be dormant are back in operation. Anarchists also took responsibility for a string of car fires in Santiago and Vina Del Mar. The bombings seem to have reawakened a long terror campaign that resulted in more than 140 explosions from 2006 to 2012 targeting banks, multinational companies and other establishments. Thankfully, most of the bombs then and now were relatively small and there were no mass casualties. But just like in the Mapuche conflict, police have been frustrated in finding the perpetrators and getting convictions. Sloppy crime-scene work and burdensome evidence rules are some of the problems vexing authorities.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Submarine, Frigate Collide During Exercises

The wounded SS Carrera
Two of the Navy's newest ships were damaged when they collided against each other during a training exercise. No one was hurt, but the FF Almirante Condell and SS Carrera sustained structural damage. The sub's turret and the frigate's stern were damaged. Both boats sailed to the Asmar repair yard under their own power, reports said. The Navy is investigating the collision, which occurred early July 18 about 30 nautical miles off the port of Valparaiso. The accident leaves two important assets out of service and a black eye for its commanders. A congressional panel says it will investigate. The Condell, a Type 23 frigate, was acquired from the British Royal Navy, where it was named HMS Marlborough, and handed over to Chile in 2008. The Carrera is a Scorpene class submarine delivered in 2005. Update: Defense Minister Jorge Burgos said Aug. 13 the submarine and the frigate will be repaired and back in service by the end of the year. Both sustained "considerable" damage, Burgos added.