MANAUS, Brazil (NNS) -- The secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) concluded a 10-day trip from Jan. 10-19 of engagement and partnership building in South America, which included visits to Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.
SECNAV Ray Mabus began his tour with a two-day stop in Bogota, Colombia.
There he met with U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Michael McKinley and discussed U.S.-Colombian relations, including military-to-military relations and shared efforts to counter drug trafficking in the region. Following his meeting with the embassy team, Mabus met with the Marine Security Force Detachment and re-enlisted two Marines.
While in Bogota, Secretary Mabus met with senior Colombian naval and government officials, to include Chief of Navy Adm. Alvaro Echandia Duran; Minister of Defense Rodrigo Ribera Salazar; Chief of Defense Edgar Augusto Cely Nunez; Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar; and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
During his meeting with Santos, Mabus discussed the importance of strong U.S.-Colombian relations.
"We greatly appreciate the strong partnership that the U.S. and Colombia share," Mabus said. "We appreciate the broad access and operational cooperation Colombia provides the U.S. military, which enhances security throughout the region."
Following his visit to Colombia, Mabus traveled to Lima, Peru, where he met with U.S Ambassador to Peru Rose Likins and received briefings from her staff. Additionally, Mabus met with the military personnel attached to the embassy and thanked them for their service.
Mabus met with several Peruvian naval and government officials during his visit, to include Chief of Navy, Adm. Jorge de la Puente Ribeyro; Chief of Defense Gen. Luis Howell Ballena; Minister of Defense Jaime Thorne Leon; and representatives from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Mabus expressed his appreciation for the Peruvian navy's contributions to regional security during his office call with Ribeyro.
"Your Navy's participation and leadership in exercises such as UNITAS and SIFOREX (Silent Force Exercise) are greatly appreciated," Mabus said. "These exercises are crucial contributors to our navies' readiness and strong ties."
Mabus also congratulated Peruvian officials on the 100-year anniversary of their submarine force.
While in Lima, Mabus also officiated at a christening ceremony for the Naval Medical Research Center Unit (NMRU) 6 building, where he made brief remarks and unveiled a plaque commemorating the unit's establishment. NMRU 6 partners with the Peruvian Army and Navy to conduct research on a wide range of infectious diseases that threaten the population in the region.
"The work you do here has great benefit to Peru, South America and all of America," said Mabus, during the ceremony. "Your work has the opportunity to change the world and effect they way we understand diseases that have plagued mankind for centuries."
On his final day in Peru, Mabus traveled to Iquitos, Peru, in the Amazon River basin. There he got underway with a Peruvian navy riverine squadron, receiving a first-hand look at how it conducts operations against drug trafficking along the Amazon River.
Following his productive visit to Peru, Mabus traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he met with the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Vilma Martinez and members of the Marine Corps Security Force.
His visit also included engagements with Argentine Chief of Navy Adm. Jorge Omar Godoy and Minister of Defense Arturo Puricelli. In meetings with Argentine officials, Mabus expressed thanks for Argentina's continued contributions in Haiti, and for hosting the multination exercise UNITAS LANT in 2010 and discussed ways to increase mutually beneficial training opportunities between the U.S. and Argentine navies.
"We deeply value Argentina's leadership in region and appreciate our strong military-to-military ties," said Mabus. "We look forward to strengthening those ties based on shared values and common interests."
The last stop on Mabus' South American trip was a two-day visit to Brasilia and Manaus, Brazil. While in Brasilia, he met with U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon and his embassy team to discuss U.S.-Brazil relations. He also visited with Brazil's Chief of Defense Gen. Jose Carlos de Nardi and Adm. Julio Soares de Moura Neto, commander of the Brazilian navy.
Moura Neto presented Mabus with the prestigious Order of Naval Merit Award at the close of their meeting. This award is granted to individuals who have served Brazil in a significant way or have distinguished themselves during the performance of their naval duties.
Following the award ceremony, Mabus expressed his gratitude for the award and the strong relationship between the two nations.
"It is truly an honor to receive this award," Mabus said. "I accept this on behalf of all our Sailors and Marines. The U.S. appreciates our close relationship with Brazil; your leadership provides a valuable contribution to regional stability, relations and economic growth."
On his final day, Mabus traveled to Manaus to observe a riverine battalion at Naval Station Rio Negro. During his visit he received full military honors, took an aerial tour of the Amazon River Basin in a Brazilian Eurocopter and landed aboard the Brazilian hospital ship Oswald Cruz (U18) for a tour of the ship's facilities.
"This has been a great trip," said Mabus. "The relationships we have with our partners in South America are so important to the security of the United States. I was pleased to be able to go to express our desire to strengthen and expand our common ties."
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