Colombia, US hold naval training exercises in Caribbean

Cartagena, Colombia, Feb 28 (EFE).- Colombia and the United States held joint naval exercises in the South American country’s Caribbean waters on the weekend to “ratify the mutual trust” that exists between the two nations, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano said Monday.

“In particular, this exercise is being conducted within the scope of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), given that Colombia is a global partner country of NATO and, of course, the United States,” the minister told reporters regarding the naval activities undertaken over the weekend.

Molano noted that the two nations have common interests in the Caribbean including efforts to hinder or halt drug trafficking, in which 40 countries are participating and joining forces to seize cocaine and other illicit drugs.

The minister said that the exercises were “seeking to adapt the best international standards in developing maritime operations, and in the development of joint actions.”

On board the Colombian frigate ARC Independiente somewhere in the Colombian Caribbean, Molano emphasized that for the first time in the history of naval cooperation between the two countries, a US nuclear submarine, the USS Minnesota, participated in these maneuvers.

“For a nuclear submarine to come into the Colombian Caribbean Sea is proof of trust,” said Molano, adding that the two countries are working together to “protect sovereignty, in Colombia’s case, and common interests in the Caribbean Sea” which Bogota has with Washington.

The main message that authorities wanted to send with the naval exercise “is that here our navy and our military forces have certain capabilities that allow Colombia to be the only country in Latin America that is a global partner of NATO,” he said.

Participating in the maritime exercises, besides the US nuclear sub, were a US littoral combat vessel (the USS Billings), Colombian sub ARC Pijao and frigates ARC Independiente and ARC Almirante Padilla, as well as two maritime patrol aircraft and two helicopters.

The commander of the Colombian navy, Adm. Gabriel Perez, said that “the exercise was designed to undertake simulated operations and some practical ones” to standardize procedures and test doctrines.

“These exercises allow us to raise our level of training,” the admiral said.

The USS Minnesota “is a Virginia class (vessel), 110 meters (about 360 feet) long, displacing a little over 7,000 tons with impressive abilities in every sense. It has a crew of more than 300 men,” Adm. Perez said.

EFE ric/ocm/dmt/bp

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