BUENOS AIRES – The former commander of the Argentine navy, Marcelo Srur, said on Tuesday that he was not informed of the problems, some of them “serious,” the submarine ARA San Juan experienced before disappearing six months ago, adding that if he would have known about the sub’s condition it never would have been allowed to set sail.
After a closed-door meeting with lawmakers from both the upper and lower house, Srur responded before a bicameral committee to relatives of the 44 crewmembers who were on board the sub, which is still missing, in a tense exchange in which they asked him if he “can sleep soundly” at night.
“Believe me, since Nov. 16, one day and a few hours after it occurred, from that moment until today for me it’s been a very long day. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you,” the former navy chief said.
The admiral said that he was not informed of the sub’s disappearance until 30 hours after the loss of communications with it on Nov. 15, adding that it was not until the end of that month when he was made aware of all the sub’s documentation, including prior mechanical and other problems, about which he immediately informed Defense Minister Oscar Aguad.
“I don’t know the reason why I didn’t get the information about the entry of water into the submarine. It was a serious situation, according to the experts who explained it to me,” Srur said.
It was Aguad who, according to Srur, asked for his resignation.
“If I had known what occurred at mid-year (another problem with the sub), if I had had that information ... the submarine would not have sailed,” Srur said, adding that the decision to send the vessel to sea “was reported in several chains of command” but never reached him.
The ARA San Juan disappeared as it was returning to its Mar del Plata base after undertaking military exercises in Ushuaia and shortly after the boat’s commander reported the “start of a fire” due to the entry of water into the battery compartment, a problem that – according to the navy – was resolved, after which the sub continued its journey through the South Atlantic several hundred kilometers off the Argentine coast.
Srur ordered the navy to send “all the assets at its disposal,” to accept help from other Latin American navies and to discuss the matter with countries such as Great Britain and the United States to try and locate the sub, although that effort – to date – has proved fruitless.