Interview with the Chief of Gen. Staff of the Chilean Navy, Vice Adm. Federico Niemann Figari
By Dialogo October 25, 2010
Diálogo – What is Chile’s effective participation with the other countries of the region, chiefly in the fight against drug trafficking?
Vice Admiral Niemann – From an overall perspective, I dare say that the relationship on the regional level is chiefly on the level of the exchange of information. There are agreements in place with certain countries, some of them in bilateral terms, to exchange information ahead of time and on the national level in order to be able to react with the resources and the regulatory and legal authorizations that each country has in this regard.
Diálogo – What is the chief problem affecting Chile in relation to national security?
Vice Admiral Niemann – I would say that at this time, from the perspective of national security, it’s probably drug trafficking that is beginning to be the most important problem in Chile, especially in the more northern regions. This is undoubtedly the result of the success that the fight against drug trafficking has had in the Caribbean region, chiefly in the area of Colombia, in the area of Ecuador, and also in Peru. So now all the traffic heading from South America to the leading markets, the most important markets, such as, for example, Europe and North America, is gradually edging to the south. This has been demonstrated by the growing percentage of drugs that we’re seizing in different areas and through different means in northern Chile.
The second area that is affecting the country’s security at this time, in one way or another, has more to do with natural disasters. In Chile we just went through a really major disaster on 27 February, affecting the country in a really significant way. We have the loss of a significant number of human lives to mourn, on top of the material losses that resulted, and this has undoubtedly also affected the institutions of the armed forces, generating significant demand on those institutions in terms of their capacity to react to natural onslaughts of this kind.
Diálogo – Do you believe that this movement of drugs toward the Southern Cone is due to the pressure being exerted in Mexico, Colombia, and other countries, or not? Could you comment on this issue?
Vice Admiral Niemann – The truth is that I can’t specify the reason why it’s happening, but the fact that there is an increase in the drugs seized in that sector is possibly due to the success that’s being had further north. To the degree that the flow is restricted, or there are actions to prevent this flow from easily passing through this channel, seeking the shortest distance between the center of production and the market, then there’s a search for a path that is further from a straight line between two points. This undoubtedly indicates to us, by deduction, that in one way or another, it’s easier or should be easier to follow the route that’s more distant, in this case. This poses an enormous challenge to us in preventing this from happening.
Diálogo – What is the importance of this event, and do you think that anything concrete has come out of it, for fighting drug trafficking specifically?
Vice Admiral Niemann – Effectively, this is an extremely important event. This occasion marks fifty years of the CNI. The CNI was born as an institution with the purpose of bringing together the navies of the Western Hemisphere, North, Central, and South America alike, to address those issues that are important and of global concern in the sphere of our responsibilities.
I would say that the topic chosen for this occasion, which is MDA, Maritime Domain Awareness, and the threats that can affect our countries’ maritime security from different perspectives, effectively addresses an issue that is of extraordinary importance today.
I would say that in the Americas, the fight against drug trafficking occupies a place of real importance, as might in other regions of the globe be the case, for example, of piracy, which we don’t normally have in our area of operation, thank God. It happens to be the case that the sphere of the fight against drug trafficking is important.
There are countries – as was true of our country in the past – in which the armed forces, generally speaking, are not extremely involved with this issue, but there’s been a change in Chile in particular, in the sense that little by little, the involvement of defense institutions, chiefly in regard to detecting illicit activity, has gradually become more ongoing and more routine, and this is a result of the fact that the plague is increasing and not decreasing.