Friday links (Monday edition) Let’s hope this isn’t true
Apr 062010
“United States plans new bases in Brazil and Peru to contain Venezuela,” says TeleSur.

During his stop in Quito yesterday, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, was asked about reports that the United States and Brazil are talking about creating a joint anti-narcotics facility in Rio de Janeiro.

Valenzuela responded that the United States and Brazil are discussing a bilateral security agreement. He insisted that this will not resemble the Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by the United States and Colombia last October, which granted U.S. personnel access to seven Colombian military bases. But he didn’t explain much more.

Below is a translation of the article that broke this story, a piece that appeared last Wednesday in Brazil’s O Estado de São Paulo.

This article tells us the following:

  • The facility will be under Brazilian command.
  • It will resemble the U.S. facility (Joint Interagency Task Force South) in Key West, Florida, where representatives of several Latin American countries, and several U.S. military and law-enforcement agencies, monitor the skies and waters of the Caribbean and eastern Pacific for aircraft and boats suspected of trafficking in drugs, arms or other contraband. It will also resemble a similar European Union facility at Lisbon, Portugal.
  • As such, it will not be a military base, but a building where people gather and share intelligence.

Put that way, the new facility sounds rather uncontroversial. But as media outlets all over the region start reporting about a “new U.S. base in Brazil,” the U.S. government’s public diplomacy apparatus has responded with … silence.

This lack of an official response is troubling because we’ve seen this before. In 2008, the Southern Command caused a regional outcry by suddenly rolling out a long-dormant “4th Fleet” for its operations in the hemisphere. Alarms went off again in mid-2009, after the first leaks about the Colombia defense agreement. In neither case did U.S. officials explain what they were doing. In the face of this silence, Latin American perceptions of both moves ended up being shaped by media outlets and governments that suspect the worst of U.S. motives.

In the Internet era, several days of silence are no longer an option. The vacuum will be filled quickly by others. The Venezuela-based TeleSur network, for instance, is already reporting extensively about the Brazil agreement.

Rather than let others define an agreement that may in fact be quite benign, the Obama administration must show us that it has learned the importance of a more agile public diplomacy effort in the Western Hemisphere. Explain this, please.

Here’s last Wednesday’s article.

O Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, March 31, 2010

Brazil discusses with the U.S. setting up a base in Rio

Goal would be to strengthen the fight against drug trafficking and smuggling, all under the command of Brazilians

By Rui Nogueira and Rafael Moura Moraes

At the suggestion of the Federal Police, the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva discussed yesterday with the commander of U.S. Southern Command, Lieutenant General Douglas Fraser, the proposed creation of a “multinational, multi-function” base headquartered in Rio de Janeiro.

The base would form, along with two existing ones in Key West (USA) and Lisbon (Portugal), the tripod of monitoring, control and combat against drug trafficking and smuggling, especially of weapons, and surveillance against terrorism.

Douglas Fraser spent the day yesterday in Brasilia. After meetings and a working lunch with Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, the U.S. commander met with the director general of the PF [Federal Police], Luiz Fernando Corrêa.

The PF already has an intelligence attaché working at the base in Key West, Florida [The Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South]. The Planalto [the Brazilian Presidency] is to decide whether the attache at the Lisbon base will be a federal delegate or an officer of the Navy.

The base in Rio, as well as the other two, does not allow operations under the command of foreigners. Countries who participate in cooperative programs to fight organized crime always send attachés who work under the supervision of the sovereign country’s agents on the base. The idea is that with the base in Florida, which closely monitors trafficking in the Caribbean, and Lisbon, which exercises control over the North Atlantic, the Brazilian base serves as an outpost for monitoring the South Atlantic.

Tragedy. Key West is a naval air base and that operates in cooperation with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, federal agencies and allied forces. Since 1989, it has housed an intelligence task force that conducts operations against drug trafficking in the Caribbean and South America.It was from there that the first airplane rescue flight departed after the tragedy of flight AF 447, Air France, last June, off the coast of Brazil near Fernando de Noronha. Notified of the accident, the base mobilized its Brazilian attaché, who initiated the rescue.

The group of agents at the Key West task force aims to curtail the cultivation, production and transportation of narcotics. The British, French and Dutch contribute by sending ships, aircraft and officials. The group includes representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other Latin American countries.

The U.S. presence in the region [Key West] began in 1823 with the objective of combating local piracy. It was initially used for patrol and submarine operations and as an air training station, used by more than 500 airmen at the time of World War I (1914-1918). In 1940, it earned the designation of a naval and air base.

In Lisbon, the naval base is on the bank of the River Tagus, the Alfeite Military Perimeter. It was established in December 1958.

Fraser also came to Brazil to organize the trip of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, planned for mid-April. The visit is the reciprocation of Jobim’s trip to New York in February. On the agenda is the two countries’ strategic military cooperation, the purchase of fighter planes by Brazil and the U.S. interest in acquiring training aircraft – Embraer produces the Super Tucano. The American Boeing makes the F-18 Super Hornet, which is among the three models being considered in the FAB [Brazilian Air Force] plan for a big purchase.

13 Responses to “A “U.S. base” in Rio?”

  1. lfm Says:

    Right now I don’t have time to get more informed about this but there is a very telling sentence from Adam that I want to discuss. He says that, though the agreement sounds uncontroversial, some “governments suspect the worst of US motives.” Look, I’m not one of those wild-eyed anti-Americans (I’ve spent a big chunk of my life in the US and my daughter is American) but here’s the interesting thing: assuming the worst of other countries’ motives is standard operating procedure in international relations. Not always, of course, but typically countries are cautious about the rest. The US does this all the time. Right now it is assuming the worst about Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, it is even fully prepared to repel the invasion of Western Europe by a Soviet Union which no longer exists!

    I’m not saying this is the right approach. Quite often it makes for unnecessary conflicts and risks of escalation. In fact, I think it is wrong for the US to be so wary about all the aforementioned countries. (Yes, even North Korea. It is a detestable regime but in the scheme of things it’s a two-bit totalitarian state with a couple of pipsqueaks that may kill thousands of people but can’t win any lasting strategic victory. I digress.)

    But when the US gets all paranoid about any pygmy state that has a snowball’s chance in hell of hurting it, then all the “right-thinking people” call it statesmanship, sober assessment and whatnot. Instead, when other countries, with bitter experiences at the hands of the US consider that maybe, just maybe, some day a future American administration may do something these countries don’t like, then that’s called irresponsible, anti-American, rabble-rousing populism.

    This is nothing against Adam. I don’t know what he thinks about this, but he’s always been one of the good guys. It’s just that I felt like venting.

  2. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Collateral Murder

    WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded. For further information please visit the special project website

  3. U.S. and Brazil Negotiate First Major Military Cooperation Agreement in Decades | Latin America News Dispatch Says:

    [...] de São Paulo, which broke the story, is available at the Center for International Policy’s “Plan Colombia and Beyond” blog.) It is not clear what role the U.S. military would play, but the article says that foreigners [...]

  4. Camilo Wilson Says:

    Jaime Bustos: I saw the video, Jaime, and yes, it’s very troubling. It was a clear video, one providing an excellent view. The camera that took it, with the cross-hairs visible, doubles as the canon gun sight on the Apache. This is very high-tech, and very deadly, as it’s intended to be.

    The comments of the shooter and the other individual in the Apache are perhaps the most troubling of all. The incident reminds me of a video game, except the targets are real people being killed on camera. People who bleed, people with families. The detachment and insensitivity of it all, of high-tech death being dealt aseptically from the air. The triviality of death in modern war?… I think it goes beyond this, for it it also speaks to the views that these U.S. soldiers have of an Iraqi enemy. More Americans should take a look at this video. It’s very disturbing, it speaks to many issues…

  5. Brazil and United States reportedly discussing new level of counterdrug cooperation - Marcelo Ballve - South Meridian - True/Slant Says:

    [...] to blog Plan Colombia and Beyond, U.S. State Department official Arturo Valenzuela confirmed that the United States and Brazil are discussing a new security agreement, but stressed that it [...]

  6. lfm Says:

    Oh well, I’ve also been gripped by the video and was looking for the chance to opine on it so here it goes. I’ve seen comments by people in the Army saying that the conduct of the unit is borderline illegal. That is, we can discuss forever if it was a war crime or not. (I tend to believe that there are parts of it that are a war crime, like the shooting of the minivan.) But I think this misses the point. The larger point is that if you see foreign troops flying helicopters on your cities, it is your damn legal right to try to shoot them down with whatever RPG you can find… or not. So, the US was engaged in a war of aggression against a country that did not attack it and, predictably enough, ends up saddled in this kind of situations. It is the broader picture that makes this possible and almost unavoidable. The biggest war criminals in this episode were not shown in the video, they were George W. Bush that ordered an illegal war and his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that decides that it would be cool to test this fancy new theory of warfare that he made up on an entire country. If General Guderian had said in Nuremberg that he just wanted to test new ideas of warfare in Poland, he would have been hanged.

  7. ¿Otro lacayo del imperio? | Alejandro Tarre Says:

    [...] por sus posturas críticas y alertas a la presencia militar de Estados Unidos en la región, dice no estar muy preocupado por el potencial [...]

  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    lfm you are a brave guy. What can we expect from a world where the criminals stalk the streets while the innocent stay underground?

    These are the two children wounded in the video, and the sons of the AP reporters. They say the won’t let this one go.

  9. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Also the role of the main stream media shaping the public opinion is pathetic. Although some articles in the new York times analized the atrocious mishap, in television Mr Woods, the sex addict golfer, had more coverage and choked up the importance of this tremendous leak.

    I have been unplugged for more than two years now, and I intent to continue so. I am talking about CNN, Fox News — you name it. Still hate radio from the local radio stations hurt my ears though.

  10. David Sketchley Says:

    I have to say I am extremely disappointed that this blog has not had the courage to comment on what has been described by the Huffington Post as the “biggest human rights scandal in years”, namely the “accidental discovery of the largest mass grave unearthed in Colombia discovered by accident last year just outside a Colombian Army base in La Macarena, a rural municipality located in the Department of Meta just south of Bogota.”

    “According to a February 10, 2010 letter issued by Alexandra Valencia Molina, Director of the regional office of Colombia’s own Procuraduria General de la Nacion — a government agency tasked to investigate government corruption — approximately 2,000 bodies are buried in this grave.”

    Why no comment?

  11. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Army mass grave in La Macarena
    Updates on the La Macarena gravesite

  12. Chris Says:

    Arrest of paramilitary.

  13. Dr. Thop Says:

    I was doing some research on your website, and I think it will be very helpful if you added the year at the top where the calendar is. i found an old posting from a sept 17 I took some digging to figure out what year it was from.


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