As part of his first official tour in South America, U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis visited Chile August 16, 2018, to meet Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and Chilean Minister of Defense Alberto Espina. Following a meeting addressing security issues, science and technology development, military exercises, and disaster assistance, Mattis and Espina signed a cybersecurity cooperation agreement.
The agreement, signed in a ceremony at the presidential palace of La Moneda in Santiago, guarantees closer mutual support to counter cybercrime threats. In June 2018, Banco de Chile reported the loss of $10 million due to a cyberattack. That same month, the Chilean government’s Cybersecurity Interministerial Committee held its first meeting, where authorities discussed operational and legislative measures to strengthen this field.
“The joint statement that we signed today will enhance our defense cooperation specifically in cyber operations and protection of Chile’s cyberdomain,” Mattis said. “This agreement recognizes the threat to all our democracies that we now face in that contested domain.”
The agreement establishes cooperation between Chile and the United States on three main points: to maintain a safe and reliable Internet network, protect the critical infrastructure of both countries, and promote norms on the responsible use of cyberspace. According to Minister Espina, the agreement will take effect in the coming months.
“A topic that interests us greatly, which we need to learn from and collaborate with the United States, is cybersecurity,” President Piñera said. “It’s something Latin American countries are not well-prepared for, and we need to catch up quickly.”
During the meeting, Mattis praised Chile’s efforts for advances in science and technology, and highlighted the support of the U.S. government in areas such as drone development and military medicine. In late May, the Chilean Congress approved the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge, and Innovation. The new entity will promote research and development, and advise the Chilean government on allocating resources to science.
“We applaud Chile’s leadership in this area, fostering innovative institutions,” Mattis said. “In partnership with all three of the U.S. Armed Forces, we are pleased to invest in basic research. This is one of only three nations in the world where we invest in that sort of basic research. This innovation forges a path in science and engineering, from improving command of unmanned vehicles to accelerating military medical research.”
The visit allowed both countries to strengthen bonds of friendship and close collaboration in different areas, including combined and international training events such as multinational maritime exercise Rim of the Pacific 2018, which concluded August 2nd. Mattis highlighted the role of the Chilean Navy as the first Latin American nation to lead the maritime component of the exercise—a proud moment for Chile and the United States.
“This achievement was no surprise to the U.S. military, who recognized this prestigious post was well earned by the professional Chilean Armed Forces,” Mattis said. “This is a fitting role for Chile’s Navy as it celebrates its 200th birthday.”
Cooperation and response to natural or man-made disasters with the support of the armed forces was another issue the defense counterparts addressed. Mattis praised Chile’s proposal during the preliminary meeting of the XIII Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, held in early June. The conference is scheduled for October in Cancún, Mexico.
“We fully support and welcome Chile’s proposal for a regional cooperation mechanism to better enable humanitarian assistance amidst natural disasters,” Mattis said. “This I believe helps to solidify Chile’s global reputation as a trusted security partner.”
A prosperous future
During his visit to Chile, Mattis announced the upcoming nomination of his senior military assistant, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Craig Faller, to lead U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Vice Adm. Faller would replace U.S. Navy Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, commander of SOUTHCOM since 2016.
“Our country intends to maintain a privileged relationship with the United States,” President Piñera said. “We’ve been friends, we’ve been partners, we’ve shared causes, but most importantly, we share values, principles, and our commitment to democracy, with respect for human rights, the rule of law, world peace. From that point of view, without a doubt, we want this privileged relationship with the U.S. to continue and strengthen; we want it to face new challenges, new missions.”
Secretary Mattis’s tour—which started in Brazil, continued in Argentina, and concluded in Colombia—reaffirmed the wish of the United States to remain a partner of choice for the Americas. “I am confident in the bright future ahead for U.S. and Chile; as your poet Gabriela Mistral wrote, ‘we go on and on,’” Mattis concluded. “And we intend to go on and on into the future alongside you.”