ALL GEARED UP

Colombia 2013 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to General Gustavo Matamoros Camacho, General Manager of Industria Militar, on controlling the arms trade, exporting abroad, and manufacturing weapons for the local and regional market.

General Gustavo Matamoros Camacho
BIOGRAPHY
General Gustavo Matamoros Camacho received a Master’s degree in National Defense and Security from Superior War College. He became Commander of the Maza Calvary Group during 1995-1997, Deputy Chief of the Presidential Military House in 1998. He was then promoted to Chief of the Presidential Military House, a position he held from 1998 to 2000. Prior to becoming General Manager of Industria Militar, he served as Commander of the Eighteenth Brigade from 2003 to 2005, and Commander of the Fifth Division from 2006 to 2007. In addition, he was Chief of National Army Operations in 2008, and Chief of Staff of Colombia’s Armed Forces during 2010-2011.

What products is Industria Militar (INDUMIL) best known for?

The main weapons we produce are small rifles. We are the main provider of weaponry for the national army. However, since we produce every part of the rifle, we also export a number of them to countries such as Israel, which designed the Galil series of rifle. Our most important business link is the export of rifle parts to Israel.

Which of your products are in high demand abroad?

Overall, the main items we export are bombs, grenades, mortars, and rifles. We are currently conducting extensive market research to identify more affordable raw materials for our production lines in order to be more competitive in the global market. At the same time, we are holding talks with the main international players in the sector in order to reach partnership agreements to boost country-to-country business activities; we can provide expertise and we prioritize the transfer of know-how and technology. INDUMIL aims to become the leading producer and supplier of armaments and ammunition for the entire Latin American region.

Where are the main markets where you source your raw materials?

In the explosive devices segment, we import raw materials from the EU and Russia, whereas in the weapons segment we tend to import them from Brazil.

“There are over 6,500 families that live, directly or indirectly, from the work they do for Industria Militar."

What have been the main changes you have implemented and what are your plans for the short term?

In addition to reducing costs on the raw materials side, I aim to generate more employment opportunities for local staff. At the moment, there are over 6,500 families that live, directly or indirectly, from the work they do for INDUMIL. As a state-owned company, we have to be socially committed to Colombia's society through our different business activities.

What is INDUMIL's main competitive advantage when competing internationally?

First of all, our experience. There is no other company in Latin America that has as much experience and expertise as we do. Also, our close ties with the Colombian army have enabled us to develop some very competitive products from an innovative and technological point of view. We have to keep in mind that the Colombian Army has always been in need of modern military weaponry and devices due to the internal conflict the country has suffered from for many years now. INDUMIL has provided several key and specific products for the Colombian Army, for whom we have a dedicated department of R&D, as well as production.

What are your expectations on the current peace process?

I believe that there are many positive aspects to it, though this is because of the strategies of previous governments, which decimated the rebel groups. I think it is the right moment to attempt the peace process and the strategies around it are the right ones. You can sense all that in the levels of optimism among the people in Colombia, because we have suffered over the decades.

What measures should be taken to fight the black market for guns in the country?

The black market in arms is one of the main problems in Colombia, especially due to the many rebel groups the country has. However, the geographic features of Colombia, its jungle and mountainous borders, as well as its vast coastline, make it difficult to fight them. We believe there are far too many illegal guns in the country. Developing the poorest communities in the country, maintaining strict restrictions on acquiring and possessing guns, further promoting the hand-in campaigns for weapons and disarmament, and continuing the education of people regarding the responsibilities of owning a gun are key issues to reduce the size of the illegal market. I believe we need to keep providing economic and social alternatives to the Colombian population to reduce violence levels in the country, and this will lead to reducing the scores of weapons currently available on the black market.