Interview with the Commander in Chief of the Bolivian Armed Forces
By Dialogo September 15, 2011
During the 3rd South American Defense Conference, which took place in Santiago, Chile from August 29 to September 2, 2011, Diálogo had the opportunity to speak with some of the main military chiefs present, among whom was the Commander in Chief of the Bolivian Military. Admiral Armando Pacheco Gutiérrez spoke, among other topics, about Bolivia’s participation in international humanitarian assistance actions.
DIÁLOGO: Admiral, what is Bolivia’s contribution right now in terms of humanitarian aid, with regard to the Armed Forces, obviously, inside Bolivia and in the region?
Admiral Armando Pacheco Gutiérrez: The Bolivian Armed Forces have a peace force deployed in Haiti. They’re right now doing a job that’s characterized as very efficient. Another contingent is about to be trained that’s going to relieve the one that’s there now. It’s a mechanized infantry company, called Bolivia 9. It has also operated in Congo, and we have the good fortune to have contributed to peace in that country and know that it’s now governing itself. It doesn’t need peace forces anymore, so we believe that we’ve contributed to peace in that country.
DIÁLOGO: What is the importance of exchanges of this kind, Admiral, among military personnel? What is it that they bring back to Bolivia?
Adlm. Pacheco: Well, the experiences they acquire are really unforgettable, experiences that translate into the practice of helping, cooperating so that a country can acquire lasting or eternal peace. That’s the best experience brought by the young people who go there to participate in these peace forces.
DIÁLOGO: With regard to the conference, there was a lot of talk about possibly creating a regional body for transregional aid among countries. Would Bolivia agree with creating such a body?
Adlm. Pacheco: While this is something that needs to be taken up at a different level, I can say that it would indeed be very useful if all the countries, especially in their Armed Forces, had an idea of coordination and an element of coordination. This might be the new regional body we have, which is UNASUR. This would not take away/deny the possibility that there might also be other bodies playing a role in this very important issue, which is the issue of counteracting, mitigating natural disasters.
DIÁLOGO: I understand that you played a role in the whole project to create a training ship in Bolivia, true? Do you believe that, for example, it would be feasible to create a regional humanitarian-aid ship, like the United States has the USS Comfort, which goes to different countries and went to Haiti, for example? Would that be an option, Admiral?
Adlm. Pacheco: It’s a very good idea, which I share, of course, because aiding, helping, cooperating with a country that is experiencing problems with natural disasters – I believe that we don’t need to think twice about the fact that we should cooperate. It’s necessary to act immediately, and if there’s a ship that could be specialized or can be entirely assigned to the work of counteracting, mitigating natural disasters, great.
DIÁLOGO: What is the largest threat in Bolivia currently? In terms of security, obviously.
Adlm. Pacheco: Well, in terms of security, we could characterize precisely that as a threat. There’s also the severe damage caused by natural disasters. We can’t not say that they’re a threat. But there are also other things that we should treat as threats …
DIÁLOGO: To conclude, U.S. participation in a possible regional humanitarian-aid body is an important matter. Is that something that Bolivia would view with open arms, or are there some restrictions?
Adlm. Pacheco: I repeat, any aid that can be offered by any country, not just the United States, has to be welcome in any sphere, not only in my country. We’ve also made efforts to cooperate. I already said in my remarks, it’s not only necessary to receive, but also to give, and if there is a country like the United States that wants to cooperate with Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, on any issue related to disasters, that cooperation has to be welcome. We’ve never denied the possibility of receiving aid from anyone. All aid is welcome, without conditions.
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