Interview with the commander of the US Southern Command: “I am concerned about the Chinese space station in Neuquén County”

“The Argentine armed forces are trying to modernize and we are in a similar process,” said US Southern Command commander Fernando Calzada.

After two and a half days of intense activity, General Laura Richardson, head of the United States Southern CommandHe left for Chile. During his stay in Buenos Aires, he held meetings with the highest authorities of the Argentine armed forces, Defense Minister Jorge Tayana, and Vice President Cristina Kirchner. It was a highly impactful visit, as he leads a Pentagon agency that focuses squarely on Latin America and the Caribbean.

In an exclusive interview with Davefor your space in Infobaeand about to ascend to the Trans-Andean country, Richardson was critical about Russia’s disinformation campaign and warned against plundering the resources of the South Seas: “Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is completely linked to China.”

During her stay in Buenos Aires, the President of Southern Command held a meeting with the Vice President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.  (Embassy Press)
During her stay in Buenos Aires, the President of Southern Command held a meeting with the Vice President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. (Embassy Press)

He has just finished his activities in Argentina. What is the balance of your visit?

-it was amazing. It was my first trip to Argentina, and although I can read and learn a lot about the country, nothing replaces coming here, meeting us in person and looking each other in the eyes.. This is the moment when you truly realize the priorities, challenges, and opportunities for our leaders, and what allows them to identify the things we can work on together and collaborate on. I want to tell you that I learned a lot about the history of Argentina and have great respect for the country. During this visit, I met people I was able to talk to and whose passion I appreciate. Vice President Christina Kirchner shows great passion for her country. Defense Minister Jorge Tayana, and Lieutenant-General Juan Martin Palio – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces. AA: They showed that, too. For me, it meant a lot to me to know the country and see how much Argentines love their land.

What can you tell us about your meetings with the authorities in the field of defense?

We have a lot to talk about. The Argentine armed forces are trying to modernize and we are in a similar process. We want to update ourselves, to be up to date with technology. I am a helicopter pilot and I can say we still have helicopters, tanks and vehicles in general for many years now. It is true that we update it with technology, but updates have limits and there comes a certain point where something new has to be incorporated. There is also the challenge of maintaining all equipment until the transition to the new one. It is not an easy task and can be expensive if not done correctly.

Richardson says:
“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is completely related to China,” Richardson says. (Fernando Calzada)

– Is there a specific plan to provide military equipment?

-yes. Since we are still trying to understand the wants and needs of the Argentine military, we discussed this and offered them if they wanted to go to the United States to visit the factories where we make helicopters or attack vehicles, for example, so that they could see the products and we could give demonstrations. I also met Lieutenant-General Martin Palio, with whom we spoke about the country’s National Defense Strategy, which was published last summer. Specifically, we are also working on a new national defense strategy in the United States. I congratulated General Palio and Minister Tayana, because it is very important that we have a roadmap of the goals one wants for their armed forces. As you can see from what is happening with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Biden strongly believes in working with allies and partners, and Argentina is a very important partner of the United States, and that’s why I’m here.

Argentina is a very important partner of the United States, and that’s why I’m here.

Chinese and Russian interference in the region

– The Southern Command warned of the presence of Chinese fleets involved in illegal fishing activities in our seas. What are your comments about it?

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is entirely related to China. On any given day, we have between 350 and more than 600 Chinese ships in the area under Southern Command’s orbit. China gets 36% of its food sources in the region, not only in Argentina, but in the entire region. We call these activities malicious. They extract resources, but do not generate investments for the country.

In your statement to the Senate Defense Committee, you also referred to the Chinese space station in Neuquén County. Do you know it as a military facility?

– I see it this way: they are facilities of the authoritarian government, which they do not allow Argentines access to, unless they go to visit. What plans? They don’t have the same interests we have in terms of freedom and a free, safe, and prosperous Western Hemisphere. What worries me. It is operated by a state-owned company and the Chinese People’s Army. Why do they use it?

Today we are in conflict with Russia in terms of information.

– You have expressed your concern about the Russian disinformation campaign and the activity of the Russian media in our region. Although they condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many governments did not adopt trade sanctions against Moscow. Concerned about possible Russian interference in Latin America?

– I consider that information is very important and can be used to influence public opinion with very precise guidance. In this sense, the Spanish channels of Russia Today and Sputnik Mundo have more than 30 million followers and are used by the Russian government in its disinformation campaign regarding the invasion of Ukraine. It is very dangerous when you have these types of resources and use social networks with the aim of influencing the opinions of the public. I still watch the news on TV, but young people, even officers who serve in the armed forces. AA. They no longer watch cable or satellite channels. They only use their cell phones and follow social networks. We know that the Russian government is undermining democracy and has the specific goal of undermining the climate of freedom, security, and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere. The disinformation campaign has already been installed. We talk about competition or conflict, when the situation becomes more dangerous. Frankly, today we are in conflict with Russia in terms of information. It is a daily battle against the lies being circulated.

Head of US Southern Command alone with DEF.  (Fernando Calzada)
Head of US Southern Command alone with DEF. (Fernando Calzada)

What does it represent for you and for women in the armed forces? AA. The fact that the United States occupied the leadership of Southcom?

– It’s definitely an honor. I am proud to be the first woman to command Southern Command. And I’m sure I won’t be the last. It is very important to open the way for 50% of my country’s population. On this trip to Argentina, we had a meeting about responsibilities for peace with women who perform military functions. Hearing them talk about their challenges and opportunities reminded me of Olympic athletes. A while ago Olympic sports were only for men. Today they have extended to women. More and more sports have been added. Today, the public follows both men’s and women’s sports. A very talented mathematician. I remember, for example, Argentine tennis star Gabriela Sabatini. Argentina has an excellent women’s hockey team. In my career, I haven’t had many female leaders to draw inspiration from. I must say that the treatment of man and woman was equal and the opportunities were the same. This is what we claim. If you don’t open the door and offer chances in FF. AA. For 50% of the population, you’ll never know how awesome they are. Argentina has done an excellent job of including women in our sector.

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Interview with the head of the Southern Command: “China has a state-sponsored fishing fleet that is involved in illegal activities”

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