Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chile Deploys More Weapons Against Mapuches

As violence escalates in the conflict with the native Mapuches, Chile's police is adding 100 officers to the troubled region, and is redeploying a surveillance airplane to the area. The Beechcraft King Air B200G is normally used by the Carabineros national police in the north of Chile to battle drug trafficking. But now the plane -- equipped with thermal imaging cameras and other sensors -- is going to La Araucania. That part of Chile's south is where radical Mapuches have burned down homes, vehicles and buildings in their fight to reclaim ancestral lands now held by timber companies, ranchers and other landowners. The area had already been beefed up with police, and the fresh reinforcements arrive after incidents in which Carabineros have seemed overmatched. Three were hurt when they were fired upon as they escorted a family moving out of its property. (Some landowners have chosen to leave rather than endure further threats.) A frustrated government is demanding answers on why the police have not been able to get ahead of the attacks. The conflict dates back to 1861, with the Army's occupation of the tribal region, a recent article in the Miami Herald explains.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Army Details Requirements for Transport Aircraft

The Army is seeking to acquire at least four medium-size transport airplanes after retiring its C-212 planes. The requirements include a minimum load of 5 tons and double the range and endurance of the C-212, which would put it at more than 10 hours and 2,000 miles. They would also need to be able to land on unimproved runways. Army commander Gen. Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba told El Mercurio that the Army may request bids or negotiate directly with the manufacturer of a plane that meets requirements. The planes that fit the requirements are the Airbus C-235 and C-295, the Alenia C27J and the Russian made Antonov 32, according to El Mercurio.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Judging Piñera as Commander in Chief

A big test looms
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera ends his term in March, and he could be dealing with a major crisis in the final days of his administration. The International Court of Justice will rule on a border dispute with Peru on Jan. 27. Tensions are sure to increase in the days leading to the decision, in which sizable fishing areas are at stake. As president, Piñera has been pragmatic, if not ambivalent. So, if Chile loses the verdict, don't expect Piñera to defy the court. If Peru loses and rejects the ruling, however, that would force Piñera to stand up to Peru, in what could be the biggest test of his leadership. Looking back at his four years in power, Piñera hasn't really stood out as a hawk. Military spending has slowed during his term, partly because the president chose to focus spending on earthquake reconstruction and public discontent. But he displayed toughness with Bolivia, drawing plans for higher security along the border. The final weeks of his term could see a flurry of military acquisitions, before Socialist Michelle Bachelet takes power. InfoDefensa reported that the armed forces pleaded with Piñera for funds to acquire new weapons. But Piñera, trying not to antagonize Peru, has refused to authorize any spending. None of the systems would be acquired in time for the court ruling, though. It's possible that Peru and Chile will face a diplomatic standoff that lasts months after the decision -- until June, that is, when the FIFA World Cup will dominate the two countries' attention.