Sail Cartagena de Indias 2014 promotes cooperation among Latin American navies
By Dialogo June 09, 2014
Naval vessels from throughout Latin America and other partner nation countries recently gathered in Colombia for Sail Cartagena de Indias 2014.
The goal of the event, which took place from May 15 to May 19 in Cartagena Bay, was to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, terrorism, and climate change.
The Colombian National Navy hosted the event, which was attended by the navies of 12 countries, including Argentina, Chile, Honduras, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
More than 1,600 sailors from the participating nations docked into Cartagena Bay on May 15, according to a written report from the National Navy of Colombia.
Strengthening ‘ties of friendship’
Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, accompanied by Argentinian Defense Minister Agustín Rossi, officially opened the event on May 17 at Parque de la Marina in Cartagena.
Pinzón awarded the Colombian National Navy’s “Faith in the Cause” medal to participating ships during the opening ceremony.
Pinzón reiterated to the visiting sailors that they are always welcome by the Armed Forces of Colombia, which will also “always count on them for their experience and knowledge.”
The gathering of navies is meant to strengthen cooperative efforts in the fight against drug traffickers and terrorists, said Vice Admiral Leonardo Santamaría Gaitán, the commander of the Caribbean Naval Force. He served as the chief operating officer of the festival.
“We are here to strengthen the ties of friendship and international cooperation with fraternal countries and nations with whom we share common interests such as combating different international threats,”Santamaría Gaitán said on the opening day of the naval festival.
Fighting multiple threats
The security forces of Latin American countries are cooperating against multiple shared threats, said Javier Oliva Posadas, coordinator of the defense and national security degree program at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“Climate change, terrorism and drug trafficking” are the main international geopolitical threats shared by Latin American countries and some of their partner nations, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, the security analyst said.
Various organized crime and terrorism groups operate in Latin America. In Colombia, for example, there are Los Urabeños, and Los Rastrojos, and the terrorist organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) operate.
Another terrorist group, the Shining Path, operates in Peru. The gangs Mara Salvatrucha, which is also known as MS-13, and 18th Street, which is also known as Barrio 18 and M-18, engage in criminal enterprises such as homicide, kidnapping, extortion, and micro drug trafficking in El Salvador and Honduras. These gangs also form alliances with the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, which are Mexican transnational criminal organizations.
The opening ceremonies of the naval festival included a military parade in the bay featuring naval vessels and more than 500 sailors from the countries which participated in Sail Cartagena 2014. The sailors proudly wore the uniforms of their respective countries.
The first vessel in the parade was the Colombian ARC training ship “Gloria,” which is used to train sailors. Following the ceremony, the crew members of the vessel disembarked to meet friends and family members for the first time in six months, Vanguardia.com reported on May 15.
The Colombian National Navy organized a special event featuring dances and music native to each of the countries which participated in the parade.
Civilian visits and a military sea dive
More than 200,000 people visited the ships during the four days of the festival. Thousands of spectators watched different naval demonstrations. For example, about 2,500 people watched a dive by Colombian diver Orlando Duque, officials said.
Naval crews and their guests attended a special culinary exhibition organized by the National Training Service (SENA). Some sailors also attended a concert in Plaza de la Aduana which featured performances by reggae ton musicians, including José Álvaro Osorio Alvin, who is also known as “J Alvin.” Spectators and sailors also enjoyed a performance by the Big Band of the Colombian National Navy.
Sail Cartagena de Indias 2014 was the third edition of the quadrennial event. The first two took place in Cartagena in 2006 and 2010. The navies which participated in the Inter-American Naval Conference, held in Mexico in 2012, organized Sail Cartagena 2014.
Organizing an event with sailing ships and sailors from around the world arriving in a port city located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast takes years of preparation and diplomatic efforts because these vessels are traversing the world training young navy cadets or participating in national and international events, the Colombian Military Portal reported on May 11, 2013.
A diverse array of vessels
The naval festival featured a diverse array of vessels.
For example, ARC training ship Gloria, which was built in Spain in 1968, is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts called a brig. More than 4,200 cadets and cabin boys in the National Navy have received training in this traveling school.
Some ships are so large that sailors play soccer and softball and jog on the ship’s deck to stay in physical condition while the vessel deployed at sea.
Mexico’s training ship is named “Cuauhtémoc.” It is also known as “The Ambassador and Gentleman of the Seas.” The vessel was built in Spain. It is a brig with three masts and 23 sails. The deck of the ship has been used for the graduation ceremonies of 31 graduating classes of officers from the Heroic Military Naval School. Cuauhtémoc has sailed 616,980 miles at 4,903 voyages.
A ‘positive’ event: analyst
Sail Cartagena de Indias 2014 was a good way to promote cooperation among Latin American navies and their partner nations, according to Oliva Posadas, the security analyst.
“These kinds of events are always positive for citizenship and the participating nations,” he said. “This approximation between ships and soldiers of various nationalities and Latin American society is relevant because it becomes clear that hostilities are shared.”
Authorities should continue to organize the naval festival and similar events.
The Armed Forces of Latin America are strengthening their cooperation, sharing information and training, Oliva Posadas said.
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