LA PAZ – The Bolivian government contracted Tuesday the French company Thales to install a system of 13 radars for military defense and air traffic control in order to effectively combat drug trafficking and contraband, at a cost of 191 million euros ($216 million).
Bolivian Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira and the vice president of Thales for Latin America, the Uruguayan Ruben Rodriguez Lazo, signed the contract at Government Palace at a meeting attended by President Evo Morales.
The president noted that his country will have, for the first time, a radar system to guard the sovereignty of its air space, adding that if a nation does not exercise this kind of control, it can consider itself a “colony of the great powers.”
The company committed to installing in 31 months the equipment for the Integrated System of Air Defense and Air Traffic Control, or Sidacta, in the provinces of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Beni.
Minister Ferreira said Bolivia will use its own funds to pay for the radar system, which will then guarantee an adequate defense of the country’s air space and the capability to crack down on illegal drug-trafficking and contraband flights.
He added that since November 2014 the government has been consulting international firms, but that Thales was the only company able to provide the equipment, install it and plan the defense system for Bolivia’s air space.
Rodriguez Lazo said the 13 Sidacta radars constitute “an iconic project based on cutting-edge technology unequaled in the region” that will provide a civil and military system that will integrate Bolivia with the world.
He added that as part of the project, an air traffic control center will be created for the necessary technology transfer, which, he said, will “set a standard of excellence for Latin America and will be the foundation of our technological freedom.”
The French firm had previously worked in the Andean country with the Bolivian Space Agency as a supplier of communication devices for the Bolivian satellite Tupac Katari, and has installed equipment in the main Bolivian airports.