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Montevideo, May 30th 2023 - 18:49 UTC



Two women lead Chile's main military parade

Thursday, September 21st 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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President Michelle Bachelet and Defense Minister Vivianne Blanlot were the first two women in Chile's history to preside over the Glories of the Army ceremony this week, accompanied by 7,000 members of the armed forces, navy, and police, including almost 1,000 female officers.

Bachelet commented that the ceremony shows "how much we have advanced as a society, and how much we have matured as a democracy. We have problems, certainly, and we have to keep working hard. But I believe that this is a milestone, and I feel extremely privileged and honoured to have experienced and shared it with so many people."

Bachelet - who presided over the ceremony as Defence Minister alongside former President Lagos in 2002, 2003, and 2004 - broke with protocol and mingled with the public for 20 minutes upon arriving at O'Higgins Park.

"It was a very special occasion," said Blanlot, "Two women arriving in a jeep, it was fantastic. It was the first time in the history of Chile and probably all of Latin America."

The crowd's warm reception and the proud show of arms capped four days of celebrations in honour of the September 18 anniversary of Chile's independence. Many used the occasion to comment on government-military relations, still fragile since the fall of Gen. Pinochet's military regime.

"There are still pending issues," noted Interior Minister Belisario Velasco, but added that "the climate between the Armed Forces and the Executive is perfect. These relations are going through a very good period, and I hope it stays this way for the good of Chile and of all."

Still, ongoing investigations of alleged human rights violations by military leaders are a source of tension, including the recent case of General Miguel Trincado, who was accused of dumping 26 bodies into the ocean in 1973 during Pinochet's Caravan of Death. Trincado was originally charged with leading the military procession and was replaced by Chief of Military Schools General Iván Hernández.

"For the Army, the transition has ended" said head Military Chief Oscar Izurieta. "Still pending, undoubtedly, is the great number of people still being investigated; when that ends, the transition will be definitively over." In a similar vein, Blanlot stated that remaining investigations "are of an individual and not an institutional nature."

Chile's recent military purchases, including ten F-16 fighter jets from the United States and Holland, formed a backdrop to the ceremony. The ten F-16 jets flew over the heads of spectators, though many complained the four second flight was too short too even notice.

The military is awaiting the arrival of the first of 136 Leopard 2 tanks, purchased from Germany, at the beginning of 2007. Equipped with night-vision technology and thermal sensors, the tanks are expected to revolutionize Chile's military capabilities. Chile will have the most advanced tanks in the region.

Eighty used Hummers, also purchased from Germany, will arrive this December. The all-terrain vehicles can be used to transport troops, victims, and as missile platforms. Though they will come fully armed, Army Logistics Director General Julio Baeza said "they will be principally used for reconnaissance and exploration, and as command vehicles."

By Renata Stepanov The Santiago Times

Categories: Mercosur.

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