Spotlight: A Conversation With Our Leaders

Chilean Navy, Multipurpose and Transformational

The institution strengthens its strategies to keep the country safe from the threats of narcotrafficking and related crimes.
Geraldine Cook/Diálogo | 29 October 2018

Admiral Julio Leiva Molina, commander of the Chilean Navy, aims to modernize his naval force efficiently and effectively to counter security threats. (Photo: Geraldine Cook, Diálogo)

Since his appointment in June 2017, Admiral Julio Leiva Molina, commander of the Chilean Navy, has committed to modernize his country’s naval force efficiently and effectively. Fleet renewal, joint and combined operations, and international cooperation are some of the strategies that will enable him to carry out his institutional commitment.

Adm. Leiva took part in the XVIII Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC) in Cartagena, Colombia, July 23-26, 2018. Adm. Leiva spoke with Diálogo about his participation in IANC, the armed forces’ responsibility against narcotrafficking, and the bicentennial of his institution, among other topics.

Diálogo: How important is Chile’s participation at IANC?

Admiral Julio Leiva Molina, commander of the Chilean Navy: This naval conference provides the means for a fluid exchange of information, experiences, and future challenges. The easiest way to achieve these exchanges is in person with the naval commanders, which enables communication to reach the desired level effectively.

Diálogo: Chile will host IANC in 2020. What will this opportunity bring?

Adm. Leiva: It’s an honor for Chile to host the next edition of IANC. We definitely want to contribute to improving communication among conference members. As host of the forum, we will take charge and promote the results of this IANC, as far as the navies’ future challenges. We will evaluate the conclusions to consider them as topics of common interest. The theme for 2020 is still being developed, and contributions arising from this conference will help us fine-tune the topics we’ll deal with in 2020. 

Diálogo: IANC’s main concern is the regional navies’ responsibility in countering narcotrafficking and related crimes. Why is it important for naval forces to come together to counter these scourges?

Adm. Leiva: Even when there are differences among countries’ legislations, a common problem is that drugs are mostly moved by sea, so the competence of navies or coast guards is essential. For the Chilean Navy, which counts maritime security as a responsibility, this issue is also part of our mission areas.​​​​​​​ 

Diálogo: What is the Navy’s contribution to regional naval forces in the fight against narcotrafficking?

Adm. Leiva: We bring control of our own areas of jurisdiction, where we maintain ongoing security with our maritime and naval forces. Our naval units are multipurpose and can fulfill their mission in different areas, from defense to maritime security, and that’s our contribution to provide security in our seas and keep away emerging threats, such as narcotrafficking.​​​​​​​ 

Diálogo: What interoperability operations do your country’s armed forces carry out to counter these challenges?

Adm. Leiva: The Navy and its maritime authority, which is the Maritime Police, work with the government and prosecutors. This interoperability is crucial to counter crimes. In our country, the different agencies directly coordinate the work for a synergy to exist about the means to use and the results we want to achieve.

Diálogo: For the first time, Chile led the combined maritime component of Exercise RIMPAC 2018, where it displayed its marines’ capabilities. What lessons did you learn in RIMPAC 2018, in July?

Adm. Leiva: The most important lesson during its development was that we can achieve great results with effort and perseverance. Chile’s participation began 20 years ago, with a very small role at RIMPAC, and it increased over time until reaching perhaps the highest responsibility, leading the combined naval and maritime component. This is a very important exercise worldwide, and being the commander of the combined naval and maritime component shows we are capable of doing it. At the end of this event, on August 2, 2018, we determined the most important experiences and lessons learned in each area.​​​​​​​ 

Diálogo: The Chilean Navy trained units of the Panamanian Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish). What academic exchanges are made with SENAN? Do you carry out these exchanges with other countries in the region?

Adm. Leiva: These meetings among navy commanders are the source of exchange opportunities among regional nations. We have an important relationship with SENAN in which we contribute to training officers. More than 27 cadets who went through our classrooms became navy officers to contribute to their country in the creation and leadership of organizations. This also applies to the rest of the countries of the region, such as in Central America, where there’s a significant contribution so that they can move forward on subjects that are long-standing for the Navy.

The Chilean Navy turns 200, so we can say that we gained experience in the process and are ready to share with partner nations that need to help. For example, since 2003, we cooperate with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, not only academically, but also through our Joint Chiefs of Staff, providing personnel for maritime and military training, under the Central America and Caribbean Defense Cooperation Program. In South America, we have exchanges and very good relations with practically every country, as shown in Sails Latin America 2018, which gathered Latin American navies and their vessels to visit different countries and display camaraderie, cultures, and friendship among nations.

Diálogo: You just mentioned the Chilean Navy’s bicentennial in 2018. What’s the importance of this celebration?

Adm. Leiva: The Navy arises with the nation, with the establishment of an independent republic, and as such we feel we play an important role in promoting its development. Ninety-five percent of international maritime trade, particularly Chile’s, is carried out at sea, so the security of guaranteeing that this trade can reach its ports of destination is the navies’ responsibility, and this is very clear in our structure. In addition, defense in our territory and jurisdictional integrity are also part of our main duties. Navies evolved over time from a mission exclusively devoted to territorial defense to cover other areas, such as emerging threats, including narcotrafficking.

Diálogo: What kind of combined work does the Chilean Navy carry out with the U.S. Navy?

Adm. Leiva: The relationship with the U.S. Navy is long-standing. One of the highlights is that we were assigned the leadership of the combined maritime component of RIMPAC 2018. Our relationship was built on exercises, but also academic and officer exchanges, including supplemental meetings and information exchanges, among others. The relationship with the U.S. Navy is very important for our country. We feel that the United States has a genuine interest in participating and helping in their areas of expertise, so we would also like to contribute with knowledge in areas where we are more experienced. As for the future, the relationship can keep developing with trust and combined work.

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