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“Southern Cross”: Chile and Argentina form joint military force for rapid response and share military facilities.

President of Chile Sebastián Piñera and Commander in Chief of the chilean Army, General Óscar Izurieta

Chile and Argentina will pool resources to form a joint military force for rapid response to humanitarian crises and peacekeeping missions in Latin America.

The combined rapid response force, to be called Southern Cross, will be drawn from the armed forces of both countries and will comprise initially about 1,000 troops. Officials said the force will be ready for deployment before the end of the year.

Analysts said the announcement of the joint force appeared to be symbolic, an expression of solidarity, as it wasn’t immediately clear whether such a force could be deployed and under what mandate.

A joint statement issued after the talks indicated the accord would cover Chile for shipbuilding contracts it is struggling to complete because of extensive damage to its shipyards in the Feb. 27 earthquake.

A joint production deal means shipyards in Argentina could be sharing the work while Chile rebuilds its facilities.

The magnitude-8.8 temblor wrecked Chilean shipyards and other infrastructure. Money set aside for economic development and poverty-reduction programs, announced by President Sebastian Pinera as part of his election campaign last year, is being channeled instead into vast reconstruction programs.

Chilean reconstruction needs have opened major business opportunities for Argentine companies but the agreement signed Friday aims to cement closer military ties between the two countries and forge long-term links between the defense industries.

Aviation, including design and joint manufacture of aircraft is another field the two countries explored when Chilean Defense Minister Jaime Ravinet visited his Argentine counterpart Nilda Garre in the capital.

Much of Argentine moves in the defense sector are in response to the military’s earnest representations to the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Short of funds and spare parts for existing equipment, the military has kept up pressure on Fernandez to deliver on promises to refurbish the military.

The government’s campaign for sovereignty claims on British-ruled Falkland Islands gave ammunition to the military’s demands for greater efforts to modernize the armed forces.

Chile’s National Aeronautics Enterprise and Argentina National Airplanes Factory will look into manufacturing a training aircraft that could be deployed in both air forces, officials said. READ MORE HERE.

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