Interview with Admiral Edmundo González Robles, Chief Naval Officer of the Chilean Navy

Por Dialogo
dezembro 20, 2010

This is the seventh year that the Naval Expo will take place. To what do you
attribute its success?

Admiral Edmundo González Robles: EXPONAVAL’s success is based on
several factors: it’s the first of its kind and the only one in Latin America. Its
joint institutional structure, bringing together a private firm with expertise in
events of this kind, which takes care of the business matters, and very committed
sponsorship by the Chilean Navy, playing a major role in the organization and
execution of the topical lectures, has been a determining factor in its success. A
good international image of our Navy, we think, is a factor to consider.

What is the importance of this trade show for this region and on the
international level?

Admiral Edmundo González Robles: EXPONAVAL’s importance is that
it provides a nearby showcase for Latin American navies where the technologies
presented are oriented toward demands at similar levels. Internationally, it’s an
opportunity for more developed defense industries to exhibit their available
technologies, establish contact with authorities in countries of interest, and in
some case, initiate actual contracts. In this regard, everyone benefits. EXPONAVAL
has been gradually consolidating its position on the global naval defense calendar,
due chiefly to its capacity to attract the highest regional authorities responsible
for naval defense acquisitions and regularly bring together an ever-increasing
number of firms of worldwide prestige.

For the Navy, EXPONAVAL provides an important platform for promoting regional
and international defense relationships and for the growth of associated maritime
and naval industry. For this reason, we hope that the exhibition will grow and
continue to be recognized as a stimulus for exchanging information on maritime
industry subjects, enabling political authorities, official delegations,
businesspeople, professional visitors, and our naval personnel to get to know the
latest advances in related technologies.

At the same time, we hope that through the planned lectures, EXPONAVAL will
be recognized as a point of reference in Latin America, a place where the maritime
and naval world comes to be updated on subjects related to the industry and its
different developments, both in the area of management and legislation and in
technologies as varied as those associated with the environment, the economy, energy
use, and so many other aspects that will be present. We want to create what we’re
calling the “Latin American maritime week,” with the participation of different
actors from the international maritime and naval industry.

Finally, this opportunity coincides with the year of the bicentennial of
Chilean independence, something that in itself gives this new edition of the event a
special character and prominence, making it a stage for displaying Chile’s capacity
for recovery and strength after the earthquake and seaquake of 27 February

One of the issues discussed at the trade show was maritime protection. What
is the Navy doing in this role today, and how do you see the evolution of this
role? (technology, regional cooperation, peacekeeping, mine removal)

Admiral Edmundo González Robles: Our Navy, in accord with the
level of its country, has an institutional configuration enabling it to act in this
role of maritime protection, in which it has shown itself to be effective and
efficient; the maritime security component, which in other countries is an
autonomous institution, like the Coast Guard (USA) or the Naval Prefecture
(Argentina), in Chile’s case is part of the same institution entrusted with national
defense, the Chilean Navy, but all within a legal framework that clearly
differentiates the levels and controlling authorities.

The case is that for any illicit maritime activity, the one who deals with it
is the national maritime authority, which has assigned resources for its activities,
and in the event that it needs complementary operational capabilities from the Navy,
they’re requested from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO): two differentiated roles
with separate operational authorities (the Director-General of the Coast Guard and
the Commander of Naval Operations), but one single institutional higher command (the
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy), entrusted with administering their continuance and

In the evolution of this role, there can be perceived a gradual and
increasing interoperability with other civilian and police agencies that may have
common interests with regard to some kind of threat coming from the sea, in both the
national and the international sphere.

So also, this evolution in the Navy’s development has been founded on a
national project based on the concepts of deterrence and cooperation, as well as
also on the strategy adopted by the Navy, based on developing the capacity to
contribute to the national defense, ensure the normal course of maritime activities,
among which transport is essential, and finally, international cooperation, in
benefit of the country’s higher interests.

In line with what I’ve mentioned, our national heritage, our marine
resources, and in general, the maritime interests they generate are an ongoing
concern, and it is for this reason that there exists a series of projects, completed
and currently underway, such as the incorporation of helicopters, patrol boats, and
launches, intended to protect and ensure the normality of the activities carried
out. In this reality, maritime transport stands out, given that our nation’s
prosperity and economic development are founded on the freedom of globalized trade,
the pillar of which is this true uninterrupted flow, which reinforces the need to
protect it beyond our borders.

This last aspect is absolutely coherent with our institutional strategy. In
effect, due to the extension, complexity, and particularities of the spaces where we
should be fulfilling our mission, it’s imperative to further those trends that
promote the achievement of international cooperative security in areas such as
maritime vigilance, safeguarding human lives at sea, and joint training, to mention
a few.

These initiatives are additionally conducive to raising our standards of
training and achieving a high operational return from the equipment incorporated,
which brings us back to my initial words, since the result is a virtuous circle that
generates the deterrent effect sought by the national strategic model and project,
which as a whole, makes it possible to adequately meet the Navy’s

Changing the subject, what is the chief security threat that Chile is facing
today, in your opinion?

Admiral Edmundo González Robles: Undoubtedly, the chief threat
to maritime security today is activities linked to drug trafficking, which in
Chile’s case still prefers to use terrestrial alternatives to reach its customers.
In the area of national security, relations with our neighbors are always factors of
care and concern, in which regard Chile is making ongoing efforts so that they may
be overcome in time. DIÁLOGO:
What role does the Chilean Navy have in maritime drug interdiction and how
do the other branches of the Armed Forces and the security forces support

Admiral González Robles: The Chilean Navy’s maritime authority
has numerous legal foundations, all of which are part of the legal order of the
Chilean state and provide the basis for the tasks it is responsible for carrying out
as a maritime police force.

Some of the legal supports related to maritime authority and the fight
against drug trafficking have emanated from legislative initiatives of the state
itself, in view of the need to provide police activity in the maritime sphere with
the necessary legal framework. Nevertheless, other regulations have been
incorporated into the national legal framework for carrying out these police
activities, given the various international commitments the country has made in its
ongoing interest in contributing to the fight against this illicit

As a result, maritime interdiction, understood for the national case as a
role belonging to the maritime authority, is fully supported by the legal provisions
applying to its activities in jurisdictional waters, as is the case of our
territorial waters.

The other branches of the Armed Forces, since they lack the relevant legal
backing, do not have the power to participate in maritime interdiction activity,
insofar as they do not form part of the maritime authority, nor, therefore, can they
be considered a maritime police force.

With regard to the security forces, the Carabineros and the Investigative
Police, they could possibly participate, but only if, in accordance with the
national legal order, a public prosecutor issues an order authorizing a police agent
other than the maritime police force to participate in a particular

Finally, the Chilean state, as a party to the United Nations Convention
against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the
Convention on the Law of the Sea, has signed bilateral agreements for the purpose of
carrying out maritime interdiction procedures in non-territorial waters in cases of
suspected drug trafficking.

The United States and Chile have participated in numerous regional naval
cooperation exercises, with PANAMAX being the largest. What benefit do these
exercises have in the fight against regional threats?

Admiral Edmundo González Robles: In effect, the Chilean Navy,
with the support of the Southern Command, was a pioneer in carrying out exercises of
this kind, selecting Panama as an area of reference due to the major impact this
important interoceanic passage has on Chilean trade. Chilean foreign trade is an
important user of the Panama Canal, making Chile its fourth-largest customer if we
consider the cargo originating in or bound for Chile that passes through the canal.

The benefits have been multiple; from promoting greater interoperability with
the participating navies to a greater conviction that the maritime threats of this
globalized world require a multinational effort. It’s also in this way that these
navies today understand and accept the concept of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) as
a very good foundation for our navies with regard to the political

What are the benefits and the lessons learned from participating in these
exercises in association with other nations?

Admiral Edmundo González Robles: Even if this question has been
relatively covered by the previous answer, it can be reaffirmed that these exercises
have brought various benefits, with a transverse effect on all the levels of
management that participate. On the political level, it has been understood that
there exist new threats that cannot be compartmentalized, but on the contrary
require international complementary efforts, and for this reason, navies with
ocean-going capabilities (blue-water navies) are required; on the strategic level of
the Armed Forces, although we’ve concentrated on the role of navies, there’s a
greater consciousness every day that multi-agency action is also desirable and
necessary, due to the danger and dynamism of the threats, something which creates
possible scenarios for adding flexibility to the legal provisions in effect; on the
operational level, as has already been said, there’s been a gain in
interoperability, which encompasses both material aspects and, perhaps more
importantly, procedures for attaining greater effectiveness.

And finally, these exercises have enabled greater familiarity with one
another among navies, from their authorities to their resources, which in the
regional sphere has a considerable value for the sake of winning mutual trust, a
factor that helps to consolidate peace, the Armed Forces’ primordial