Chile hosted bioterrorist attack drill
Experts from 23 regional and 3 international organizations participated in a bioterrorist attack drill simulating the spread of the deadly pneumonic plague in Chile. The OAS through its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) organized the exercise.
The exercise, named First Bioterrorist Attack Drill and funded by the Canadian government, took place in facilities owned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile. There were representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, as well as local law enforcement officials and Chilean first responders that participated in the event. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also participated in the drill.
The main objective of the exercise was to be able to endure a three-day bioterrorist emergency in Chile, a country with an important flow of international flights. According to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, the drill helped “identify institutional strengths and weaknesses and understand how the effects of such an act could spread to other nations”.
The drill simulated the detection of two suspicious packages in International Airport of Santiago facilities and the arrival into Chile of an infected passenger coming from Paris, France. According to the exercise, a suspect had been indentified in a local hotel and emergency centers had received a number of individuals infected. Several patients had died in emergency centers in Santiago, Chile.
The virus released in the simulated attacks was the highly contagious “yersinia pestis”. The virus, also known as pneumonic plague, is also associated with a high mortality rate. According to the script, in 48 hours, the virus had been indentified in several areas of Chile and Argentina, while Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay had also reported cases in their territories.
The Chilean Deputy Secretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla said the drill went beyond a simulated terrorist attack because it represented “the development of integrated public policies” to prevent such threats.
Fernando Scmidt Ariztia, acting as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile; Rodrigo Ubilla Mackenney, acting as Minister of the Interior of Chile; and Sarah Fountain-Smith, ambassador of Canada to Chile, participated in the inauguration of the drill. Ambassador Fountain-Smith stated that “as long as the application of national reactive measures remains the main concern when responding to bioterrorist emergencies, cooperation between states is important to mitigate its effects”.
Participants of the event included 60 high-ranking Chilean officers and 20 representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (20 each). Official members of the delegations included Rubén Candia, General Attorney of Paraguay and Eduardo Casal, member of the Argentinean Supreme Court.