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Brazil sees Chávez as a Danger for Peace in the Americas

Brasilia (ANSA). 13 May 2006 | The Brazilian armed forces intelligence services believe that “peace is uncertain in South America” stemming from regional conflicts, and they consider the presence of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, to be a “destabilizing element” in the region.

The affirmation concerning the perceived “regional instability” is found in intelligence reports obtained exclusively by Correio Braziliense, according to an article to be published tomorrow in the number one daily in the Brazilian capital, but previewed in part today.

This interpretation of the regional panorama leads to the proposal of increases in military spending and to the reactivation of Brazil’s defense industry, with the goal of preparing the armed forces based on assumptions of future challenges in decades to come.

“Intelligence analyses of probable risks to national sovereignty coincide with the conclusion that peace in South America is uncertain and changes are suggested for national defense policy,” thus affirms the Correio.

Current policy, adopted in 2005 after three years of debate between the government of Luiz Lula da Silva and the military high command, identifies Amazonia as the principal region for potential conflict and predicts the transfer of troops to that area.

“The military high command wants to minimize the withdrawal of personnel and resources from the southern regions and from Amazonia, while redeploying these troops nearer the border areas with Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, an area which is increasingly problematical,” added the daily.

At least 3,000 military will be affected if there is any confirmation of the freeze imposed on the number of troops of the Second Selva de São Gabriel de Cachoeira Infantry Brigade, in the state of Amazonas, on the border with Colombia.

That unit was the assignment for troops from the motorized infantry from Niteroi, in Rio de Janeiro, while troops from Campos and São Gonçalo, also in Rio, were to be transferred to other Amazon regions.

But this reinforcement of the military presence in regions bordering Colombia, where narcotraffic and guerrilla groups are a strong presence, is beginning to be placed under review, starting with the assessment of the regional situation by intelligence reports.

“The army confirmed that it is in the midst of reassigning the headquarters of the Rio de Janeiro brigades and regiments to Ponta Grossa and Santa Maria, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul (on the border with Uruguay and Argentina),” adds Correio Braziliense.

According to the daily, despite having considered that “any military action in a friendly country would not be seen with good eyes,” the Brazilian military “have been working under the assumption that within the next 15 years they may have be engaged in combat with up to two coalitions of South American countries, or between one of its neighbors and a military superpower.”

“The strategy is bold and has the intention, by means of increased spending and reactivation of the national defense industry, of providing the armed forces within the next 35 years with a military might sufficient to prevent any country from thinking that it finds itself in any condition to defy Brazil,” adds the daily.

The military analyses cited by the Correio qualify Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as a “destabilizing element on the continent.”

They are also of the opinion that the nationalization of gas and petroleum reserves decided upon by Bolivian president Evo Morales, “without Brazil even rehearsing a response,” encourages Paraguayans to force the issue of revising energy prices established by the Treaty of Itaipu.”

Another consequence mentioned in the report may be “the expulsion of “Brasiguayos,” Brazilians who cultivate soy beans along the border region, and who are also being threatened by expulsion from Bolivia.

Salvador Ghelfi Raza, a national security specialist at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington, said to the Correio that the return of the troops that were sent to Amazonia reflects “a case of rushed pragmatism.”

“It is an error in strategy which may well send a dangerous message to neighboring countries. That attitude clashes with the position of the foreign office and of the Lula da Silva government itself, and violates national defense policy,” he said.

On his part, Reserve Colonel Geraldo Cavagnari, a specialist in Strategy and researcher at the Universidade de Campinas, in São Paulo, seemed to be in agreement with having the armed forces prioritize Bolivia as “the only significant focus of tension along the borders.”

“Our sovereign national interests were threatened by the nationalization of the gas resources. Now it is Brazilian farmers. It is the government’s obligation to prevent the Bolivian state from using force against them,” he said.

Cavagnari rejected the idea that Paraguay might follow the “Bolivian example”…”especially because it is beyond Venezuelan influence,” and spoke of the “risk” that, to his way of thinking, Chávez represents for the continent.

“It is necessary for us to prevent Chávez from turning Bolivia into a Venezuelan satellite. What are his plans? What purpose does he have in wanting an army of 1.5 million men? If the purpose were to use it in the region, Brazil would be obligated to react and the United States would not remain sitting on their hands,” he concluded.

Translation by W.K.

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