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Chile-U.S. base a boon for defense firms

April 30, 2012 at 4:43 PM   |   Comments

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FORT AGUAYO, Chile, April 30 (UPI) -- What began as a joint Chilean-U.S. base for training peacekeepers before their dispatch to the wider world is growing into a major destination for regional military trainers and defense industry contractors.

The $460,000 facility is a burgeoning site for what the U.S. Army South calls a training ground for Military Operations on Urban Terrain. When completed the MOUT base will support the Chilean Joint Center for Peace Operations and the U.S. Department of State's Global Peace Operations Initiative.

Chile is an active participant in international peacekeeping operations and has sent military experts and troops over the years to trouble spots on the India-Pakistan border, Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkans and various potential flashpoints in the Middle East.

In the Western Hemisphere, Chile and other Western partners are active in Haiti on reconstruction and social regeneration programs after its crippling earthquake in January 2010.

The magnitude-7 temblor and aftershocks killed an estimated 316,000 people and injured 300,000 others and made more than 1 million Haitians homeless.

Reconstruction of housing and businesses has tested the resources and resolve of an international effort, of which Chile, the U.S. administration and international relief agencies are key parts.

The peacekeepers are also involved with basic law enforcement in Haiti to prevent looting and corruption linked with aid and relief operations.

The training center began taking shape a few years back but its emergence has drawn other potential national participants and also proved to be a growing market for defense industries.

When completed, the 30,000-square-foot base at Fort Aguayo will comprise eight buildings with sidewalks and roads simulating an urban environment for peacekeeping training, the U.S. Army South, the service component of the U.S. Southern Command, said on its Web site.

USSC has headquarters in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and looks after operations in 31 nations and 10 territories in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Chilean Marine Corps Capt. Claudio Zanetti, director of the Chilean Joint Center for Peace Operations, said the base will help Chile better train its forces for U.N. peacekeeping operations.

U.S. participation in the project raised a left-wing outcry and populist opposition comment in Latin America. Since its inception, however, the project has drawn support in other Latin American countries.

More than 300 personnel from 17 participating countries are taking part in Peacekeeping Operations-Americas exercise. The exercise includes Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, the United States and Uruguay.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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