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Gates backs crisis cells to aid Latin America in disasters

by Staff Writers
Santa Cruz, Bolivia (AFP) Nov 22, 2010
Defense ministers from across the Americas on Monday mulled the creation of crisis cells that would spring into action in a natural disaster, an idea US Defense Secretary Robert Gates described as "promising."

The proposal was discussed at the ninth Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Bolivia's largest city Santa Cruz.

Gates told representatives from some 30 countries that the proposal followed "honest assessments of what worked and what didn't in Haiti" in the aftermath of that country's catastrophic earthquake, which killed 250,000 people.

The proposal involves creating a series of Military Assistance Collaboration Cells, or MACCs, that would share information and technology.

"I fully support this proposal and believe it is a promising project for other cooperative efforts," said Gates.

Haiti in January suffered the worst natural disaster on record in the region, when a 7.0-magnitude quake leveled much of Port-au-Prince, leaving 1.3 million people homeless.

Massive amounts of international aid flowed to the poorest country in the Americas, but its delivery was chaotic amid logistical disruptions and complaints of excessive red tape.

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