Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Equipment Mobilized Against Mapuches

Secretary of Interior Andres Chadwick said police will get more equipment to fight extremist Mapuches, as the new minister strikes a get-tough tone on the conflict with the indigenous group. Chadwick did not specify the new equipment, although he hinted at electronic gear. Chadwick also announced Nov. 23 he would travel to the areas most affected by Mapuche violence to push the government's two-pronged strategy: Extremists will be met with the full force of the law, but officials will work with peaceful Mapuche groups on a redress of their grievances. The conflict flares up from time to time, with sporadic attacks that sometimes involve firearms. For example, earlier this month a bus with elderly men was ambushed and shot at in the early morning hours. Logging companies and ranchers are often targets; they are seen as the beneficiaries of lands taken from the Mapuches. Chadwick, who was elevated to the post after his predecessor was named the new Minister of Defense, is the cabinet member responsible for Chile's national police and internal security. For more background, a Chilean television show recently aired a documentary on the conflict.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Goodbye, C 212

The Army is phasing out its remaining CASA C 212-100 light transport planes, a model that became stigmatized after a fatal Air Force crash last year. The three planes have logged an average of 6,000 flight hours and have been in the Army since 1978, Gen. Ivan Gonzalez, the head of the Army Aviation Brigade, told La Tercera. Maintenance costs have soared, and plans are to put the planes up for sale and to seek a replacement. A fourth plane was lost in a 1995 crash. Gonzalez said the Army also is trying to replace a pair of Cessna T-41 single-engine planes used for pilot instruction. The C 212 became the symbol of one of the worst air disasters in Chilean history, in September 2011. The plane, operated by the Air Force, was lost at sea as it tried to land on the Juan Fernandez island. Twenty-one persons, including the FACH crew and a team of civilians, were killed. The crashed was blamed mainly on erratic winds and the plane's low altitude, but the C 212's maintenance also came under scrutiny during the investigation. The tragedy clouded the future of the C 212 in Chile, and more could be headed for retirement. The Navy operates a few C 212s as well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Asmar Shipyard Cashes in on Ecuador Submarines

Asmar has completed the refit of Ecuador's SS Shyri, a Type 209-1300 submarine that began its upgrade in 2008. The sub is undergoing sea trials while a second Type 209 sub, the Huancavilca, will continue its refit until the expected delivery date of February 2014. Ecuador is spending $125 million on the upgrade of both submarines. That's a healthy bit of business for Asmar, which has picked itself back up after being devastated in the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami. Chile's Navy has a pair of Type 209 subs that have undergone their own refit, and that gave Asmar valuable experience in the German-built subs. In June, Asmar finished work on a three-year refit of the SS Simpson, which followed a refit of its twin, the SS Thompson. That project included adding the SUBTICS integrated combat system (used in Chile's two Scorpene-class submarines) and digital displays.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Defense Ministry Gets a New Leader

Andres Allemand has stepped down as Defense Minister, one of two cabinet members leaving their posts to pursue Chile's presidency. The new minister is Rodrigo Hinzpeter, the current Interior Minister. In that capacity, Hinzpeter has been responsible for domestic security, anti-terrorism efforts and other key mandates. That has given him ample experience in border security, student protests and the Mapuche conflict. He's pushed for a new law to control violence at demonstrations. That has made him a top enemy of student and Mapuche protesters. The Ministry of Defense has been largely bypassed in internal security, so Hinzpeter heads for a less-volatile job. Should changes be expected in Chile's defense policies? Not really. Hinzpeter and Allemand served in the same administration, and the new appointment is just a stop-gap measure until a new president comes to power in about a year from now. A lawyer by training, Hinzpeter spent some time working at a New York law firm. Allemand can look back at his tenure in Defense with some significant milestones. He was instrumental in developing a new budget mechanism for the armed forces (one that backs away from using copper revenues) and for a proposal that could increase the military's role in anti-terror, immigration and other internal issues. Peacekeeping and social welfare programs advanced under his leadership.