Gates Notes Value of Chile’s Disaster Response Capabilities

SANTIAGO, Chile — The Chilean mil­i­tary can offer a wealth of expe­ri­ence in dis­as­ter relief oper­a­tions to the Unit­ed States and oth­er nations, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today.
At a news con­fer­ence with Chilean Defense Min­is­ter Jaime Ravinet fol­low­ing a 45-minute pri­vate meet­ing at the Gen. Bernar­do O’Higgins Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my, Gates not­ed Chile’s “for­ti­tude and resilience” fol­low­ing nat­ur­al dis­as­ters that inter­rupt­ed cel­e­bra­tion of the nation’s bicen­ten­ni­al year.

“Amer­i­cans were deeply impressed with the man­ner in which the Chilean gov­ern­ment, mil­i­tary and peo­ple respond­ed to the hor­rif­ic earth­quake and tsuna­mi that struck in Feb­ru­ary,” he said. “Loss­es were trag­ic, but would have been far worse with­out the swift and skill­ful response that saved many lives and rebuilt many com­mu­ni­ties.

“And then, of course, we all wit­nessed and cheered the extra­or­di­nary res­cue of 33 trapped min­ers –– a trib­ute to the spir­it, courage and inge­nu­ity not only of those men, but of Chile as a nation,” he added.

Not­ing that Ravinet vis­it­ed him at the Pen­ta­gon in Sep­tem­ber, Gates said today’s meet­ing was a wel­come oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss what West­ern Hemi­sphere nations can learn from Chile’s expe­ri­ence and achieve­ments in deal­ing with crises and nat­ur­al dis­as­ters. The two defense lead­ers also dis­cussed oppor­tu­ni­ties to fur­ther strength­en the bilat­er­al mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship between the two nations, he added.

“The Unit­ed States and Chile share com­mon val­ues, inter­ests, and the over­ar­ch­ing goal of peace and sta­bil­i­ty in this hemi­sphere,” Gates said. “Our two mil­i­taries have col­lab­o­rat­ed on defense mod­ern­iza­tion, and Chile has forged a part­ner­ship with the Nation­al Guard of the state of Texas to share expe­ri­ence in build­ing capa­bil­i­ties in areas such as cri­sis response.”

The sec­re­tary said he and Ravinet also dis­cussed revi­tal­iz­ing mul­ti­lat­er­al insti­tu­tions and spoke about the Con­fer­ence of the Defense Min­is­ters of the Amer­i­c­as, which they’ll both attend in San­ta Cruz, Bolivia, in the com­ing days.

“I believe this forum has a vital role to play in fos­ter­ing coop­er­a­tion between the gov­ern­ments and mil­i­taries of this hemi­sphere, allow­ing us to address those chal­lenges [that] we all face, — whether the fight against drugs, arms and human traf­fick­ing or the need to improve dis­as­ter response capa­bil­i­ties,” Gates said.

The sec­re­tary said he’s espe­cial­ly look­ing for­ward to dis­cus­sions at the upcom­ing con­fer­ence about cre­at­ing a frame­work among West­ern Hemi­sphere nations to share infor­ma­tion and exper­tise and deliv­er life­sav­ing capa­bil­i­ties more quick­ly and effec­tive­ly than was pos­si­ble fol­low­ing a mas­sive earth­quake in Haiti ear­ly this year.

“Chile can offer real expe­ri­ence and accom­plish­ment in this area,” the sec­re­tary said. “In addi­tion to its domes­tic exper­tise, it’s long been an impor­tant con­trib­u­tor to the multi­na­tion­al peace­keep­ing force in Haiti, play­ing a crit­i­cal role in the Unit­ed Nations sta­bi­liza­tion mis­sion there before and in the after­math of the dev­as­ta­tion.”

Mov­ing for­ward, the sec­re­tary said, the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to be grate­ful for the friend­ship and part­ner­ship of the Chilean peo­ple.

This after­noon, Gates and Ravinet vis­it­ed Fort Lau­taro, where they saw capa­bil­i­ties demon­stra­tions of the Chilean military’s spe­cial oper­a­tions brigade in a vari­ety of mis­sions.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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