By Paolo Valpolini
The inauguration ceremony of the 6th edition of Expodefensa took place on 4 December in the main auditorium at the CORFERIAS premises downtown Bogotá. Roberto Vergara, international business relations manager at CORFERIAS, welcomed the audience, followed by Patrick Colas des Francs, COGES International General Manager, the French company that for the second time is co-organising Expodefensa under the auspices of the Colombian Ministry of Defence.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by the Ministers of Defence of Ecuador and El Salvador, and by the Ambassadors of Ecuador, France, Italy, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the UAE. All Colombian top commanders were on the stage.
French Gen. Hubert Lebarly, head of the International Direction at the Délégation Générale de l’Armement, representing the French Minister of Defence Florence Parly, took the floor, France being the host of honour of Expodefensa 2017. He underlined that France is an innovative and creative nation, being the first defence R&D investor in Europe, and underlined the will of his country in cooperating with friendly nations in order to improve their industrial base. The bilateral agreement between Colombia and France will open new common programmes perspectives, he added, not only in the industrial field but also in military training.
With a closing remark on the friendship between the two countries, Gen. Hubert Lebarly left the floor to the Colombian Minister of National Defence, Luis Carlos Villegas Echeverri. Highlighting the deep change in the military and political scenarios, he underlined how the Colombian forces had won the peace, and the need for them to strengthen this process, something that will require from them an equally deep transformation. He foresees an increase in technology among the forces, a wider international view to allow them to take part in peacekeeping operations, something that will need increased exchanges with international partners.
Special attention has to be paid to the public security forces, Colombian and Spanish police cooperation having brought to the capture of six tons of pure cocaine, thanks also to the technological means deployed in that operation, technology that Colombia needs to develop more and more according to the Minister. He then underlined the successes of the main Colombian defence companies, such as Indumil, which has good relations with many countries t which it recently added the UAE, Cotecmar, who last September delivered a naval unit to Honduras, CIAC, who works among others with Panama public services, Codaltec, who won several contracts with municipal police and medical services in Colombia, and developed radar sensors which were recently used to protect the Pope during his visit to the country, not forgetting to mention a key sector such as cyber.
The coming year will be key for Colombian forces, as the PES frigate programme should be launched, which will need considerable international cooperation, the launch of the first national earth observation satellite in April 2018, and the contract with the Spanish arm of Airbus for the development of a MALE unmanned air vehicle. Stressing once again the need for the Colombian industry to get a more international stance, to increase its capabilities and the interoperability of its products, the Minister closed his speech wishing the audience his welcome to the New Colombia, the one that emerges after nearly 50 years of conflict.
He then cut the yellow-blue-red ribbon at the main entrance, opening the access to the exhibition area, which hosts over 260 companies and that will be visited by 66 delegations from 29 different countries.