Agustín Rossi, Minister of Defence of Argentina: "With the action against COVID-19, the Armed Forces generated a much stronger and more forceful link with the whole of civil society"

Exclusive interview with the Minister of Defence, Agustín Rossi, regarding the General Manuel Belgrano Operation against COVID-19
Agustín Rossi, Minister of Defense of Argentina

 -   Agustín Rossi, Minister of Defense of Argentina

125 days before the start of Operation Manuel Belgrano of Civil Protection, to alleviate the effects of COVID-19, the Minister of Defence, Agustín Rossi, evaluates the action of the Armed Forces in the framework of the health emergency. 

With the premise of an Armed Forces integrated into society, he highlights that the pandemic brought different sectors together in a joint effort that involves humanitarian aid that will be extended in the long term - as the subsidiary mission was planned - and will be expanded after the effects of the pandemic.

Likewise, it highlights the immediate need for defence policy planning as a public policy and an architecture in line with a world with latent and new threats and in a country coveted for its territory and natural resources.

General Deimundo Escobal, who is the operational commander of the mission General Manuel Belgrano, stated that in this operation it is the first time they receive support, not only professional but also psychological incentive, from President Alberto Fernández to you as Minister of Defence, which generates an assembly and integration in the performance of the task assigned on all fronts to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 in Argentina. He considered it a novel fact.

I am glad you feel that way, because we are doing absolutely everything possible to make it happen. The reality is that these military chiefs took over on February 28 and five days later the first case of COVID-19 in Argentina was manifested. Immediately, on March 9, we began with daily meetings in the Ministry of Defense situation room, where we have built a joint executive committee made up of the heads of the Armed Forces, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the operational commander, four secretaries and two undersecretaries who are part of the team I chair. We plan, evaluate and make decisions with a very important flow of information. 

President Alberto Fernández and you have stated on several occasions that there are no longer any members in the Armed Forces who belonged to the military dictatorship. Is it due to this circumstance that this integration takes place and the support they receive from the national Executive and from you?

It seems to me that this new leadership of the Armed Forces fully understood that there was a turning point in this new stage, regardless of the existence of COVID-19.  But the pandemic made visible the capabilities they have, which they have had all this time, and generated a much stronger and forceful link with the whole of civil society. They are closed circuits and a decision is made. The president asked me to make all the capacities of the Armed Forces available to the fight against COVID-19. I did so to the extent that they carried out this operation and received positive responses and recognition from the whole of society and the political authorities of the different provinces and mayors. It clearly allows one to be strengthened on decision making. But, in general terms, when I proposed to each of the heads of the Armed Forces and to the operational commander that it was the initiative of designation that was going to take him to the president, he accepted it and made it his own. I told them I wanted them to be chiefs for all four years. That I envisioned them in that perspective and that I invited them to work together in that regard. 

Recent events have also rightly pointed out that defence policy is a state policy and that it must remain in time. Beyond what has been done in front of COVID-19, we have seen an interaction between the Armed Forces and the civil society, which have merged in some aspects, immersed in the health emergency. Is it time that the Defence policy, as any public policy, has a course of action where the Government makes decisions articulating different areas of the State?

This is the second time I've been in charge of the Ministry of Defense. When I first took over, I felt that was my main obligation and challenge: to try to strengthen that muscle between the Armed Forces and civil society. When I came back, I felt that was more or less channeled. When you see that the military people who work in the Libertador Building arrive in their own uniforms, walk down the street, travel on public transportation, and don't have any problems, it's because the relationship is quite good. It seems to me that the pandemic meant staggering to a higher stage. To show how important it is to have the Armed Forces throughout the country and that this has permanence in time and recognition. Yes, we live it like that. When the president refers to the fact that there are no longer any personnel in activity -in fact, the oldest general is General Paleo, whose first assignment as second lieutenant was in 1984 with President Alfonsín who assigned him to the Tartagal Regiment- this is a fact to be highlighted. 

Thirty-seven years after the return of democracy, one can speak of the healing of open wounds. President Alberto Fernandez raised the need to "turn the page" and have an integrated Armed Forces to society.

More than 30 years of democracy have passed and we no longer have men who were on active duty during the dictatorship. This is a fact for the Armed Forces and also for society. Because the reality is that, during all this time, the military issue, the relationship of the military with democracy and with human rights, occupied more pages than defining a defence policy.  Then, for progressive or national and popular political spaces such as ours, there was always that question not settled by the cruelty of the seven years of dictatorship, and for the right-wing political spaces that came here, they did it with a fiscal view: let's shrink. There was never room for a defense policy. I believe and hope that - as a positive residual in this pandemic equation - a much higher threshold of discussion is left regarding the positive consideration of the Armed Forces. Argentina has to define a policy that must consist of a military instrument made up of men and women who are trained, educated, trained, committed to democracy, to Human Rights, but also equipped. 

Taking into account the necessary equipment and the country's technological backwardness at regional level, what impact has the recovery of strategic transport such as Hercules aircraft, aircraft for transporting large numbers of personnel or medium transport, as well as helicopters, which have allowed not only the repatriation of Argentines stranded abroad, but also the deployment of personnel and material, had in the framework of COVID-19? 

The Argentine Armed Forces need a level of equipment, because they have had, due to different circumstances -and I do not make any value judgments- low investment levels in these last decades It can be understood that Brazil has a higher level of equipment than Argentina, because it is the seventh economy in the world. Or Colombia -a country that today has more inhabitants than Argentina- but above all, it has had for years the Plan Colombia with the support of the United States for the fight against the FARC. Now when one says that Peru and Chile have invested more in defense than we have, there are no explanations. These are political decisions. Argentina has to have a political decision to have a defence policy that means a level of equipment, which has to have steps. The first step is to reuse everything that is usable and what we have. The second step is to produce locally and the third step is to import or buy what cannot be done here, always with technology transfer so that at some point we can produce it.

You refer to equipment, but it has also become clear - beyond the territorial deployment - that today an officer is a knowledge worker with university or postgraduate degrees, some with more than two languages, and this has been generated in many cases by participation in peacekeeping operations. Human resources are prepared. How will the FONDEF (National Defence Fund), which is one of your ideas, be reactivated? The Defence as a State policy requires permanence in time, and it supposes a general orientation referred to the national interest and to the conditions established by the international situation and the modifications made by the successive governments, they cannot alter that constitutive model that combines in an integrated way the national instruments of power.

FONDEF was an initiative that I agreed with the president, when he was already elected. He offered me to be Minister of Defense before I won the election. Between the PASO and the general elections we had several meetings around the Defense and its look. I explained to him the idea of FONDEF, which goes beyond the economic, because its most important support is permanence in time. The investments you make in Defence, you do not see them tomorrow. You make the decision to invest today and you will probably end up seeing it in six or seven years' time. So, in peacetime, Defense is a great planning exercise. FONDEF is important because it will mean a mass of important resources to be invested in Defense policy, in the staggering criteria. The most important thing is that we will have it every year. Then we will be able to plan, we will not have to say: "well, I have two million dollars left over and then I can buy this" or "I have this opportunity that appears in the market". You are going to be able to plan with military capabilities, the CAMIL Plan and that is very important for the spirit of the military personnel. When I arrived I told the generals, brigadiers and admirals I met, FONDEF is not thinking about you, it is thinking about the ensign, the second lieutenant and the midshipman, so that they know that they are entering the military career and that they are going to have a quantum of investment during all the years to have the equipment and to be able to develop their task. This is the ABC: the boy who enters the Aeronautical School in Cordoba wants, at some point, to be able to fly planes and for that he needs to have planes. I think that the experience and the military deployment in COVID-19 allowed us to know and see where we had needs.

Agustín Rossi, ministro de Defensa de Argentina
Agustín Rossi, Minister of Defense of Argentina

So what are our weaknesses and strengths, taking into account Operation Manuel Belgrano in the midst of COVID-19? What lessons have we learned so far?

Many. In the deployment, it's clear that there are regions in Argentina that need greater strength and military presence and that for different circumstances the military units left. For example, the province of Santa Fe is one of the three central provinces with the least number of military units, and the difference with Córdoba is impressive. We have two other provinces where we have no military presence: Santiago del Estero and Catamarca. But other needs have also appeared: to have a greater capacity of transport planes, we are buying a Boeing and because of the whole situation of what the crisis of the commercial airlines means, there will be a space where you can promote LADE, which is the State airline, a line of promotion, which has a great trajectory in the Argentine Patagonia. Then, it would be good to have aircrafts like the ATR, which are dual aircrafts, cargo and passengers, which have a lower operational cost than a Hercules plane, and to go back to them for certain special missions and above all to guarantee the airlift in Antarctica with Marambio. Now we have made a budget readjustment and we are going to invest 600 million pesos in a tender for the purchase of transport trucks for the Argentine Army. I have gone to many places where I see old trucks that have to be repaired by the Army mechanics. The truth is that I am excited, I fall in love, but also, besides that, I need a truck that breaks down less, that is safer for the military, that costs less to maintain and fuel. All these things are also needed to improve the equipment. 

With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the consequences in terms of health, what needs have you detected in terms of strengthening military health in the face of the dismantling of this area as a prelude to the devastation of public health in other countries that have experienced or are experiencing the pandemic?

There is a hospital in Bahía Blanca that we can strengthen much more. The hospital in Salta is very important. Well-administered military health care can also be a source of growth and a link to society as a whole, provided that we can move towards having contact with other social works and that this will also mean the growth of military health care itself. An important effort has been made, and we even have the laboratory equipment at the Pedro Mallo Naval Hospital to carry out the COVID-19 test immediately without having to pass it to the Malbrán. We are working to make progress in this direction at the Central Military Hospital as well. There is also a lot to work on and to offer. Then we have a province like Misiones where we do not have military health. The closest one is Curuzú Cuatiá. There are a number of things that require a different diagram from all that means the development of the forces.

Is the regional approach implemented from 2013 to 2015 with Unasur (Union of South American Nations) and from the South American Defense Council continuing, and how does it impact in the midst of the health emergency

UNASUR had one very important thing, which was the South American Defense Council. The possibility of having a multilateral relationship with all the countries of South America, in a multilateral environment. Now it does not exist. I think that Argentina, in our directive of the Defense policy, we are surely going to implement it again. One of the objectives was to build a regional Defense system. If one imagines all of South America coordinated with its Defense system, it is clearly a strong deterrent. The experiences I had between 2013 and 2014 -2015 was already more complicated- of building the CDS, was very positive. We had relations at that time with all Latin American countries regardless of the political sign and ideological positioning of governments. Without a doubt, we could re-float again. 

How are multilateral bodies going to be actively re-established after the pandemic?

It's a challenge the world will have to rise to. Because COVID-19 has also generated that, in the globalized world, we are all inwards. We close the borders and we do not want Bolivians to enter Argentina, nor Chileans to enter Bolivia, nor Brazilians to enter our country. We do not only close our borders, but also the provinces and localities and the homes of each one of us. From the point of view of what international policy means, an effort will have to be made to re-establish multilateral bodies. I have tried, within the framework of the Defence policy, to maintain a close relationship with all the Ministers of Defence of MERCOSUR, with the Minister of Defence of Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. With those three countries we built a 2+2 bilateral relationship between the Secretary of International Affairs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who meet regularly to review how the Armed Forces are acting in each place and in each country to check the things we are doing. We also do it with Chile, less intense the relationship, but we also do it and try to carry it out.

Regarding the regional issue, Army personnel have been deployed in Salta to the border with Bolivia. Was it established within the Operation Integración Norte that has been going on for several years and with different names or composition? 

In the previous administration, we had formed an operation that was established from the 40th parallel upwards and was called "Escudo Norte". That operation had an air component that was of the Air Force and that operated the radar system throughout the north. We have radars in Tartagal, Las Lomitas, Pirané, Ingeniero Juárez, Resistencia, Posadas and in San Pedro. Fundamentally, the information is almost always to the Gendarmerie and in some cases to the Prefecture. In 2013 and 2014, we added a ground component to Operation "Northern Shield", which was the strengthening of Fortín II. That ground component was planned to be a deterrent force. What we were doing was military training, linking with small towns. We were doing actions to support the community in the jungle and forest area in Misiones and the mountains in Formosa, Jujuy and Salta, but basically what we were generating was a presence in uninhabited and little-circulated places. If there was any specific situation, any irregularity, the corresponding Security Force was informed so that it could act. Now it is called OPINOR, Operative Integration North. The strengthened OPINOR component is the one that is now operating on the border in agreement, obviously, with the Ministry of Security and the Security Forces. What this does is decompress the Security Forces so that they can dedicate themselves, fundamentally, to being in those circuits of authorized passage, in legal circuits of passage, which is where there are, sometimes, greater levels of tension. 

On the other hand, is the Ministry of Defense going to reinforce the so-called "dry borders" with Brazil where the health situation is the worst in the continent, taking into account that the border with Bolivia has already been closed? Is there any inter-ministerial relationship for border control?

In the framework of the border with Brazil there is a requirement of strengthening by the governor of the province of Misiones. There, it depends on what Security thinks. We act in support of the Security Forces. If he considers that a deployment should be made, we will see how we carry it out, but, I say again, first he has to define Security.

What do you think about the fact that the governors of Tucumán and Catamarca are requesting the reinstallation of Army units in their provinces? Is it due to this experience of amalgamation that civil society is having with the Armed Forces?

In Tucumán, only the Argentine Army has the Liceo General Gregorio Araoz de Lamadrid, oriented in Communications, and an Army arsenal. We are looking at the possibility of increasing our presence there and that was a request from the governor of the province. In the case of Catamarca, it was a previous request by the governor before COVID-19. We are analyzing both and seeing how we can fulfill it in those two places.

Do you consider Operation Manuel Belgrano successful so far? It's been going on for 125 days, but it's designed for the long term or "long time". There are military operations in other countries, such as Operation Balmis, which has ended in Spain, but which can be reactivated at any time, taking into account the behaviour of the population and the spread of viruses. What do you foresee in our future?

I think we've risen to the occasion. We've met the requirement. We divided the country into 14 emergency commands that act on demand and can come from a higher level such as the president, the Ministry of Defense or other jurisdictions, governors or mayors. In the case that they are governors or mayors, they always consult with the operational commander or with me or the chief of staff. If they move within the parameters of what we have been doing, we have done more than 9,000 tasks throughout the country. For us, a task is an action that is carried out over the course of a day and that involves mobilizing personnel and means. Moreover, the recognition that there is from the civilian population and the political authorities in each of the places where we are participating and where we are carrying out actions, clearly shows that it has been successful. We have not held back in any way, or in any aspect. We have put all the capacities that the armed forces have had in this fight and there is also a plus of military personnel working in a very committed way. If we have to qualify it, it has been a successful mission. 

This operation is a subsidiary mission just like the Peacekeeping Operations, but it has also become more complex because there are personnel deployed in Cyprus and in other points of the planet. What engineering is going to be implemented to carry out the relays? How have they been adapted to the laws of the countries and what is the determined criterion regarding the health of the contingents?

In addition to Operation Manuel Belgrano, we have permanent operations which are Peace Operations. The most important is Cyprus, where the Argentine component is second in number after Great Britain. It has an important preponderance within the peace mission. In the case of Cyprus, we are going to follow the United Nations' directives. Our replacement personnel will be quarantined and the personnel returning to Argentina will also have to comply with the quarantine. We are going to charter a Boeing from Aerolineas Argentinas which will take them to Cyprus in two trips and they will be quarantined there.

Agustín Rossi, ministro de Defensa de Argentina
Agustín Rossi, Minister of Defense of Argentina

Antarctica was the first place in Argentina where the protocol against COVID-19 was applied in effective compliance in all the bases. Taking into account that it is a place of free movement and where there are installations from all over the world, what measures will the Argentine Ministry of Defence continue to deploy in its responsibility to ensure that the virus is not installed in Antarctica?

At the end of January, we were notified from Marambio Base and other bases that there were contingents circulating. A mixture of tourists, scientists and citizens of Chinese origin who were in Antarctica. There we applied the first protocol of personal care, of taking distance, of asking these contingents not to park near our bases. So from that moment and until now we have a particular protocol of action in everything that means the replacement of the crew. Antarctica is a continent of shared use and the presence is of multiple countries. We are particularly zealous about two issues: firstly, because coexistence in the Antarctic bases is communal and if someone has the COVID-19 it is very difficult for the rest of the equipment not to be infected. And secondly because, except for those with a direct air link, such as Marambio or Esperanza, it is difficult to evacuate the rest of the bases. So we're going to do the Summer Antarctic Campaign this time in COVID mode. What does COVID mode mean? That the summer bases are not going to be occupied, we're not going to open them. What we're going to do is send a minimum staff to open it up for the duration to see what the situation is on the base and see if it's had any damage during the winter. The summer science staff does not travel, only those who are going to winter over. And the military personnel who are going to winter over as well. We're taking all the necessary precautions.

In similar operations in other countries, there was a higher number of infections and deaths among members of the Armed Forces. What protocol was implemented so that relatively few people were infected, taking into account the territorial deployment and the number of troops involved?

Everything corresponds to the low number of infected and the low number of deaths that our country has, in proportional terms. Secondly, we put special emphasis on the idea that in order to take care of ourselves, we have to take care of ourselves. Our staff has to have special emphasis on taking care of themselves in order to remain in operation. Our staff is on the ground for fourteen days in the AMBA and seven days in some other provinces. They return to the barracks, have everything that disinfection means, stay one day to see if it is good for their health, and then go home to be in operation again after 14 days. We always planned this operation as a "long time" operation: a long operation in time and for that we had to have as many active and caring staff as possible.

Did you determine that from the beginning because you had previous information about the operations that were taking place worldwide?

The first month we were ordered. There were demands of all kinds for the Armed Forces. But we always tried to be calm in the belief that we were going to be doing a long-term operation and that, in order to respond to that operation, what we had to do was also take care of our personnel. So we deployed 60,000 men, and that means that at some point during these 125 days, they went out into the field. The numbers we have are very low and most of them have been infected outside the operation.

This health protocol that has this success in numbers, has it been an original model or was it inspired by someone else?

It is the model that everyone in Argentina uses. But what we have done is of strict compliance that is the health personnel, based on avoiding contact. When we have had to work in complicated places like Villa 1-11-14 or the San Jorge neighborhood, we have always gone to distribute the food with all the precautions, the personnel with gloves, with chinstraps, with goggles, with a mask in case it was necessary, and then with all the subsequent care when they return to the barracks.

In a world with permanent threats to our societies, such as terrorism, organized crime, drug and arms trafficking, hybrid warfare, cyber-attacks on a super-technological balloon, technological weapons that can paralyze a country with inexpensive means, without any kind of exposure, and can lead to the total collapse of a country's systems. Or the technological advance of unmanned planes or war drones that kill without risk by remote control and will represent 10% of the aeronautical market in 2050, how will National Defense planning, studies and strategies be oriented?

The truth is that there are several situations within the framework of international policy that force Argentina to improve its defence policy. We do not have a static world, we have a world with tensions. We do not forget that on January 3 of this year, in a high-tech military operation, the United States killed an Iranian military chief - Major General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - who was positioned in the line of succession. We all thought that this was going to generate an escalation and then it subsided. If two years ago, I was told that OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) Russia and Saudi Arabia were going to make an alliance, even if only temporarily, to continue increasing production levels and that this would generate a drop in the price of oil and a complication in the United States, because shale oil was more expensive, you would not believe it.  Everything is in motion. Furthermore, there is one thing we have been saying and Perón said it in his first and second governments. In a 1954 speech when he inaugurated the War College, which today is the National Defense University, he spoke about an analysis that many people make today: we are inserted in a continent that is very rich in natural resources and that has a low level of population. We have a continent of these characteristics in an overpopulated world that demands what we have. If one does not see from the strategic point of view that there is always a line of tension there, one is clearly mistaken. And, on the other hand, I think that having a defence policy makes people feel self-confident because they feel cared for and protected. 

Therefore, in issues considered as latent threats, but not new ones like bacteriological warfare or bioterrorism that should have been tackled locally a long time ago, how can a Defence policy be implemented where these items are dealt with at a global level? COVID-19 is not an unexpected and unpredictable event or as the Lebanese economist Nassim Taleb, a black swan, called it. A dozen coronaviruses have emerged and mutated over the last decade and we can deal with these new weapons that are much more malleable, with more penetration and easier to control than chemicals. All the aggressive governments in the world are secretly researching these types of weapons. And a virus has challenged society, the economy and our way of life.

I believe that there is a whole reflection that the whole of the Argentinean intelligence system has to make. I have already told the directors of Intelligence of the Armed Forces that in addition to having graduates in International Relations, Political Sciences, Geographical Engineers, and Communications Engineers, among others, they should start hiring medical epidemiologists to report on what is happening in the world. On December 31 last year was the first case of COVID-19 reported by China. No one told the president how serious this was. No one told him that the virus was going to spread. No one told him that he was going to Italy first and that he was going to come to Argentina. Not because of the Italians but because of the Argentines who were going around the world. So it seems to me that, in that sense, the task of the intelligence agencies has to be a much more professional one and that it has to cover a multiplicity of scenarios, without any doubt. We have a lot to do. Then with COVID-19 there is a failure of humanity as a whole. If in the 21st century, which is the century of the most important technological advances in the world, where scientific and technological developments multiply exponentially from one year to the next, the response to a pandemic -a disease of a respiratory nature- is the same response as in the Middle Ages: "Isolate yourself".  The same response as the Black Death in the 14th century or the Spanish fever or the yellow fever. What did we do as humanity? Where are scientific and technological developments heading? Because the truth is that this deserves a reflection on how the world and humanity are functioning. From the point of view of the armed forces, we must take a much more intense look and we must give a twist to everything that is the Intelligence that today has a debate, for other reasons, but that is an important question. Intelligence has to be the place where the President of the Nation or the Minister of Defense is provided with the greatest amount of information so that, in their decision making, they have the smallest margin of error. In Argentina it is used for the things we are living today. In my area of responsibility, the Armed Forces' intelligence system is much smaller than the national intelligence system, in terms of personnel and budget. Each civilian intelligence personnel is paid with his or her face, first and last name, and document number, and it's perfectly whitewashed. And this system of analysis has to be guided, completed with other areas, such as, for example, everything that the epidemiological question means.

Agustín Rossi, ministro de Defensa de Argentina, y el general Deimundo Escobal
Agustín Rossi, Minister of Defense of Argentina, and General Deimundo Escobal

This is a long-term operation. What is the assessment, so far, and what is expected, since the situation is mutating, day by day, and is clearly observed in the rest of the world with closures and openings of quarantines and even borders in different countries?

Our assessment is that we have risen to the occasion. We've adapted the muscle to act quickly and today we have an almost automatic response to each of the demands. If a new, different demand appears, it requires further analysis but the usual demands we already know how to make, carry out, solve and implement. There is also a huge reservoir of trust from society or other agencies for us to be there to resolve a number of issues. What is to come? We do not know. One can assume that humanitarian aid will continue after the VICD-19. Because the economic crisis and aid situation will surely continue regardless of whether the pandemic becomes less aggressive. 

Do you make an analogy as if the pandemic were a conflict and then the post-pandemic became a post-conflict?

It certainly does. Then you have to be in the reconstruction. We'll have to see what the armed forces have to offer. Because I believe that the link between the Armed Forces and society cannot be just a flash in the pan. I think that, on the contrary, we have to continue looking for ways to resume our main activity, but at the same time we have to see how we can maintain this very high level of connection with civil society. In many places it has happened in a very harmonic and very habitual way. For example, we were in Bariloche at the mountain school named after Lieutenant General Juan Domingo Perón. There, the emergency command of the municipality of Bariloche meets and the Balseiro Institute, the Balseiro Atomic Center, INVAP and several organizations participate. There is an articulation and assembly of bags for the Mapuche community and we distribute firewood. This is also a symbol. Because the history between the armed forces and the Mapuche community was not always coincidental and is a fact to be taken into account.

You said that the health emergency regarding COVID-19 involved a reflection on the behaviour of humanity. What is the introspection you have made up to now? And taking into account that this is a subsidiary mission that has to do with humanitarian crises, where are we going? 

Unfortunately we all say that the post-COVID world is going to be different from the preCOVID world.  I add that it will be a worse world. That we are going to have a more unequal world, a world with higher levels of poverty, with higher levels of destitution. In our country the SME network will be very affected, only the big economic corporations and the State will be left standing. The State will also be weakened because it does not collect much. The State always has the capacity to issue currency and that is always a power, in terms of blowing up the economic revival of our country. And it will also generate effects in society and in human behavior, that we cannot greet each other, that we cannot give each other a hug, a kiss. That one cannot see - I live in Rosario - and it has been more than 100 days since I have seen my children younger. All this will also have an impact on society as a whole. Crises always bring out the best and the worst in societies. We have seen a number of actions and behaviors that seem to be among the worst things. Because the reality is that the reaction to the virus is an individualistic reaction. What they tell you is "stay home, if you stay home alone, you don't get it and you don't get it" and that's pure individualism. So it seems to me that from the point of view of humanity, it puts us in a difficult place.

And then what responsibility do those in leadership positions have?

We have to rebuild not only the economy but also social ties, human relations, and think ahead. But, without a doubt, that is going to be an enormous effort that we, the leaders, are going to have to carry out as a whole. 

The leaders and society?

Society too. But society is - in a way - a victim of those of us who have the responsibility of leadership. On December 31, we learned of the first case of COVID-19 in China. In a hyperglobalized, hypertechnized world, where all developments are increasing day by day and are positioned and improved, the response given to humanity to COVID-19 is the response of the Middle Ages: to isolate oneself. So, this leads to an enormous reflection from the point of view of humanity as a whole, which I think we certainly have to do.