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Chile to review intelligence after spy scandal with Argentina

It is the first time that Chile has become involved in a spying affaire with Argentina since it returned to democracy in 1990.
Two prominent Army officers were removed after being found responsible for spying in an Argentine Consulate of Punta Arenas in Chile's South. President Lagos ordered a sweeping review of intelligence operations.

Chile will review its intelligence operations after two military officers have been seen filming and photocopying classified documentation inside the Argentine Consulate in Punta Arenas, country's far South. Argentine Consular official Tettamanti had surprised the two intruders when he got in his office on Sunday and immediately reported his superiors in Buenos Aires, who protested before Chilean authorities. The two men were seen filming and photocopying documents and ran off before the official could alert authorities, according to local accounts.

According to press reports, one of the intruders left behind his identity card, together with a video camera containing footage of the consulate and the safe opened. On Monday, the Chilean Government identified both officers and fired them, trying to avoid a diplomatic scandal with Argentina. Chile insists they were "acting on their own initiative", as Government officials also accepted the resignation of a top army general and another ranking military official.

Argentine president Nestor Kirchner said he was "satisfied" with Chile's attitude, as Buenos Aires Foreign Ministry distributed an official statement in which remarks Chile's "good will" to investigate the case. Chile's open attitude "is valuable as part of the growing cooperation and transparency between both countries", concludes the document.
 
However, the case led to a strong reaction from Chile's authorities: Defense Minister Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday the government would increase its control over the military's intelligence unit after the weekend incident, which threatened to "harm growing relations" between the two South American neighbors. In turn, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos told reporters that "any similar action in the future will be dealt with in the same drastic manner as this one."

It is the first time that Chile has become involved in a spying affaire with Argentina since it returned to democracy in 1990. Both South American nations nearly went to war in 1978 over a century-old dispute involving three islands in the Beagle Channel. Last-minute mediation by Pope John Paul II averted an outbreak of hostilities that year over their southernmost boundary. By that time, both countries were under hostile military rule, as territorial controversies were peacefully resolved during the democratic nineties.

Flights

According to Argentine sources, the case may be linked to the negative of Argentina to let Chile to add a second weekly flight from Punta Arenas to the Falklands, currently under British administration. Argentine Foreign Ministry's spokesmen denied version, but some local newspapers reported about "tension" about the issue.

Hernan Etchaleco

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