Sweden’s minister for enterprise and innovation, Mikael Damberg, has signed a defence cooperation deal with Colombia - an important milestone for Saab, which wants to export Gripen fighter jets to the South American nation.
Damberg signed the deal on Tuesday during his visit to Colombia, which recently passed a peace agreement after several years of tough negotiations with the Farc guerilla group. Sweden has been a key supporter of Colombia’s peace process.
“The military is one of the most important components in this transition to peace," Damberg told Swedish Radio. "They have great responsibility for handling the peace agreement, but are also facing major investments in the near future."
Sweden’s aerospace company Saab, which supplies the main part of Sweden’s air force, hopes to export its Gripen fighter jets to Colombia, and has been working on building ties by, for example, sending pilots to hold seminars for the Colombian air force.
But Colombian senator and human-rights activist Iván Cepeda said contributing to increasing Colombia's weapons arsenal is the worst thing Sweden could.
“The military needs to be re-educated to operate in a Colombia at peace, and the international community should help with that instead of trying to sell us weapons,” said Senator Cepeda, of the Social Democrat PDA party. He also pointed out that the Colombian military has been accused of serious war crimes.
Damberg said Sweden is training the Colombian military in gender awareness and human rights and that it is up to the Inspectorate of Strategic Products, a Swedish state agency, to decide whether Saab is allowed to export planes to Colombia.
“From what I understand, the agency has given a preliminary go-ahead for exports of this type of products,” said Damberg.