Colombia’s Blackhawk “Macaws” headed to protect Amazon

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Sikorsky UH60 Blackhawks in San José del Guaviare/Policia Nacional.

Seven Blackhawk helicopters that were used in the Afghan war arrived in Colombia as part of a donation of 12 from the United States government. The fleet of sophisticated gunships were received by President Gustavo Petro, Minister of Defense Iván Velásquez, and National Police Chief Mayor General Henry Sanabria.

At a ceremony at the military base in San José del Guaviare, President Petro decided to rename the US-manufactured Sikorsky UH-60s as newest members of a “fleet of macaws” that will be dispatched to protect the Colombian Amazon from environmental crimes, and criminal activities such as deforestation, fires and illegal logging.

The donation of the 12 helicopters is valued at US48 million dollars, and was processed through the Anti-Narcotics Affairs and Law Enforcement Section (INL) of the United States Embassy in Bogotá. The INL Bogotá’s Police Aviation program will conduct the general maintenance of these aircraft, with the aim that they can fly some 2,000 hours-per-year.

“The delivery of these helicopters ratifies the commitment of the United States with the government of President Petro in the protection of the environment, and activities that generate serious damage, such as extensive cattle ranching, land grabbing, coca crops, illegal mining, illicit trafficking of fauna and flora, among others,” highlighted the Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, Francisco Palmieri.

According to the commitments made with the Colombian government, the helicopter gunships have a new design that identifies them according to their new environmental and security role, which includes tasks such as fire mitigation, the evacuation of communities at risk from natural disasters, security and public health, and the persecution of criminal organizations that destroy nature, to the detriment of the different communities that inhabit Colombian territory.

The helicopters have the capacity to transport 11 people or 22,000 pounds of cargo, according to Major General Henry Sanabria, who highlighted the importance of this donation as the US and Colombia mark 200-years of diplomatic relations.

“That difficult relationship that has existed between Colombia and the United States, dramatic many times, violent on some occasions, peaceful on others, will now have a strong purpose if we are capable of establishing a dialogue of the Americas to save the human species and life of the planet,” emphasized President Petro.