Posts filed under ‘BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)’
Guarding the Rainforest.
Illegal logging in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is down — thanks largely to armed militias of indigenous peoples guarding their reserves, which make up about a fifth of the Amazon region.
Armed with shotguns and other assorted weaponry, these ragtag guardians have stopped illegal loggers, tied them up, torched their trucks and tractors and chased them off, the Washington Post reports in a front page story Wednesday (October 7).
As a result, such logging has sharply declined in these territories. But the indigenous groups have faced reprisal attacks and death threats for their actions, raising fears of more violence in an area known for its lawlessness, according to the Post. In a rare visit to the reserves permitted by the indigenous tribes, Washington Post journalists found that many residents support the militias. But others are uneasy about relying on informal armed groups to resolve a problem that should fall to the Brazilian government.
The clashes highlight the continuing grave threat to the Amazon, the world’s biggest remaining rain forest, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the world’s climate and biodiversity. From 2005 to 2012, deforestation plunged in Brazil, as the government increased its conservation efforts and cracked down on illegal loggers. But since then, the numbers have begun to creep up again. In 2014 alone, almost 2,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest were cleared by farmers, loggers and others the Post said.
The Brazilian government sees the rain forest and the waters of the Amazon as key natural resources that needs to be guarded as much as oil reserves off the Atlantic Coast of Brazil
A 2014 report by the World Resource Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that rural communities and indigenous peoples across the world have government-recognized rights to forests containing 37.7 billion tons of carbon—equivalent to 29 times the annual emissions from all passenger vehicles in the world. In total, deforestation and other land uses represents 11 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
In Brazil alone, the report stated, strong legal rights could contribute to preventing 27.2 million hectares of deforestation by 2050, translating to 12 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions that don’t get into the atmosphere. That’s the same as about three years’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions from all Latin American and Caribbean countries.
President Dilma Rousseff has promised to reduce illegal logging in the Amazon by 2030. She and President Obama in a visit to Washington over the summer, have agreed to work more closely on curbing deforestation of the Amazon and boosting renewable energy.
Meanwhile, a Brazilian audit court has ruled that Rousseff broke the law in managing last year’s budget, according to the BBC.
The government was accused of borrowing money illegally from state banks to make up for budget shortfalls. The opposition says the court’s ruling – which reports to Brazil’s Congress – paves the way for impeachment proceedings against Ms. Rousseff, the BBC said. She was re-elected less than a year ago but has record low popularity ratings, according to the BBC. The Brazilian government says it would challenge Wednesday’s ruling in the Supreme Court
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Bringing Back Police.
The United Nations’ top human rights official wants the Mexican government to set a timetable for replacing military personnel in law enforcement duties with well-trained police.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said Wednesday (October 7) that the government should return soldiers to their barracks because military forces aren’t designed to do police work, the Associated Press reported.
Mexican soldiers and marines began leading the fight against cartels after many police units proved too corrupt or inefficient to take them on. Zeid was scathing in his assessment of how Mexico’s police, judicial and investigative system have failed Mexicans, leading to 26,000 disappearances and thousands of killings that remain unsolved, the AP said.
Zeid said Mexico’s defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos, told him the army doesn’t desire a policing role. But Zeid added that better police forces have to be trained before Mexico’s army withdraws or the military will leave a vacuum.
The Mighty Jungle.
The Chinese military has requested assistance from the Brazilian Army in developing jungle warfare training for the People’s Liberation Army, according to officials in Brazil.
Colonel Alcimar Marques de Araújo Martins, commander of Brazil’s Jungle Warfare Training Center (known by the acronym CIGS in Portuguese) indicated that China had recently arranged to send a group of officers and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) to be trained at the CIGS, but they canceled that plan and are now asking Brazil to send trainers to China, Defense News reported Sunday (August 9).
“They have now asked us to provide a number of trainers and our jungle warfare training expertise to assist them in developing their own program in China,” the colonel said. Brazilian officials did not indicate when the training program would begin or how many trainers are likely to be sent.
Defense News said it wasn’t clear why the Chinese are expanding their jungle training operations, the trade paper noted the country does have long, jungle-covered borders with several neighbors.
The Brazilians have trained almost 6,000 officers and NCOs in jungle skills. Nearly 500 students have come from foreign countries. The great majority of foreign students have come from Brazil’s Latin American neighbors. But there have been some 27 U.S. attendees and over 100 from Europe, notably from France. Only one attendee, so far, has come from Asia.
CIGS training courses which are conducted up to three times a year, are taught in classes of 100-to-120 students. The 10-week course (eight weeks for the senior officer’s course) teaches a wide variety of jungle warfare techniques ranging from survival and foraging to navigation, fire and movement disciplines, riverine assault techniques, and jungle hygiene procedures, according to Defense News.
Fighting Illegal Amazon Logging.
Government officials in Brazil say fighting illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest is like battling illegal narcotics operations elsewhere.
Maria Luisa de Sousa has been co-ordinating a month-long operation to halt illegal logging in northern and eastern Mato Grosso state by the government-funded institute responsible for environmental protection. She says the fight to save the Amazon is increasingly a fight against organized crime. “You can compare it to the struggle against drugs trafficking. The crime and the criminals keep on adapting,” she tells the BBC in a piece today (July 9) on the battle to save the rainforest.
De Sousa’s organization, Ibama, uses helicopters to spot timber poachers from the air. But in the future, unmanned aircraft are expected to join the fight to preserve the Amazon region — which represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and has been called the Lungs of the World. Last May in Atlanta, at the huge annual robotics conference of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), several unmanned aircraft manufacturers told 4GWAR that they expected the need to persistent aerial surveillance in the Amazon region and elsewhere in Brazil will heat up the Latin American market for drones — large and small. We’ll be writing more about this at 4GWAR in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, according to the BBC report byew monthly figures show that deforestation rates in some parts of Brazil have almost doubled compared to last year. Those statistics also show that increasing amounts of wood are illegally taken from protected indigenous reserves.
Back in 2010, Brazil announced a new strategic defense plan calling for increased military presence in the Amazon region to link national defense with national development by protecting and leveraging Brazil’s large water, agricultural and energy resources. That plan called for building up Air Force, Army and Navy capabilities including five new submarines and supplying its own satellite imagery — rather than but it from other countries.
Even though President Dilma Rousseff has cut government spending as the country staggers through a contracting economy, Brazil is still among the top 15 countries with the highest military spending in 2014, according to data gathered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited Washington in late June and met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. And that seemed to signal that after two years of acrimony, the two countries were moving to reset their relations, according to an article in the World Politics Review.
Bilateral relations cooled significantly after revelations in 2013 by rogue National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. eavesdropping on Brazilian officials — including Rousseff. The Brazilian president cancelled her state visit scheduled for that October, after the scandal broke.
In the intervening years, Russia has sought closer ties with Brazil — particularly in defense technology sales. Brazil is set to buy Russian Pantsir air defense systems in early 2016.
Last Fall, Brazil announced it was buying its next generation fighter jets from Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab. Brazile will pay $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter airplanes.
LAT AM REVIEW: Colombian Attack; Mexican Drug Lord Seized, U.S. Coast Guard Focus on Western Hemisphere, Rio Defense Expo
U.S. Condemns Rebel Attack.
Eleven Colombian soldiers were killed in fighting with Marxist guerrillas last week (April 14), prompting Colombia’s president to resume air attacks against rebel camps.
The attack and the government’s response have many observers worried they could jeopardize peace talks seeking to end a 50-year insurgency that has cost thousands of lives in Colombia.
A spokesman for the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — which has been trying to overthrow the government since the 1960s — claimed the soldiers initiated the fighting near Cauca in western Colombia. But President Juan Manuel Santos called it a deliberate attack by the FARC and ordered the resumption of bombing raids on rebel targets. Seventeen other soldiers were wounded in the skirmish and one guerrilla was also killed.
Despite the violence, the Voice of America reported the two-year-old peace talks resumed on Thursday (April 16) in Havana, Cuba where Colombian government officials and FARC commanders are trying to negotiate an end to a war that has killed 220,000 and displaced millions since 1964.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement April 17 condemning “the brutal attack in Cauca orchestrated by the FARC.” The brief statement called the attack a “direct violation of the unilateral ceasefire FARC committed to” last December. “We support President Santos’ decision to continue negotiations but also lift his halt of aerial bombardment of FARC,” the statement added.
The State Department said it reaffirms “our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.”
In February, the FARC said it would stop recruiting fighters younger than 17. Then in March, the two sides announced an initiative to work together to remove land mines, the New York Times reported. Soon afterward, Santos ordered a one-month halt to the aerial bombing of FARC encampments. Just a week prior to the latest attack, the president extended the bombing respite for another month.
Since the peace talks began, there have been other clashes with the FARC that resulted in a large number of casualties. In July 2013, the military reported that 15 soldiers died when the rebels attacked an oil pipeline, the Times added.
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Mexican Drug Lord Captured.
The head of another transnational drug cartel has been captured.
On Sunday (April 19) Mexican authorities said they have captured the man who has led the Juarez drug cartel since last year’s arrest of then-leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the Associated Press reported.
National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Jesus Salas Aguayo was caught Friday (April 17) about 130 kilometers south of the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. One of Salas’ bodyguards was killed and another was arrested.
Rubido said Salas Aguayo is linked to a 2010 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez, as well as a 2012 bar attack that killed 15, and the 2009 slaying of a protected witness in El Paso. The website of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says Salas Aguayo is wanted in the United States for possession and distribution of narcotics and for conspiracy.
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Coast Guard Focus.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s not enough to seize thousands of pounds of cocaine at sea or even arrest the people transporting illegal drugs by boat.
Instead, it’s crucial to defeat the transnational organized crime (TOC) networks behind the illicit commerce in narcotics and people, according to the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.
“Last year alone. the Coast Guard took 91 metric tons of cocaine out of the [trafficking] stream,” Lieutenant Commander. Devon Brennan told a briefing on the first day of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. He noted that seizure figure is three times the amount of drugs seized by all U.S. law enforcement agencies “including along the southwestern border.”
But going after transnational cartels is only part of the Coast Guard’s regional strategy. “In the next decade, the Coast Guard must confront significant challenges to maritime safety, efficiency and security in the Western Hemisphere,” the Strategy states, identifying three priorities over the next 10 years: combatting [criminal] networks, Securing Borders and Safeguarding Commerce.
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Brazil Defense Expo.
One of the biggest defense conferences in the Americas, Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD 2015), just ended in Rio de Janeiro.
“Despite budgetary uncertainties, the Brazilian Army remains steadfast in the pursuit of its key strategic projects,” according to IHS Jane’s website.
The army’s seven key strategic projects include the SISFRON border-monitoring system; a cyber defense project; the Guarani Strategic Project for (PEE Guarani) for a family of wheeled amphibious armored personnel carriers (APCs); and the Attainment of Full Operational Capability (OCOP) project, which aims to equip the army at a minimum level of readiness to guarantee the homeland defense mission.
Brazil’s defense strategy includes air and naval asset acquisitions to assert Brazilian control over its deepwater offshore oil reserves and to secure the waters of the Amazon Basin, which Brasilia considers a natural resources commodity as valuable as oil.
Senate Sanctions Venezuela.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for approval.
The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, if enacted, would direct President Barack Obama to take action against any current of former Venezuelan government official who violated the rights of anti-government protestors this year, according to The Hill newspaper in Washington. Sanctions could include freezing assets and denial of visas to travel to the United States
Passed on a voice vote Monday (December 8), the bill was introduced by Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, after reports of peaceful protestors being tortured and killed. The Venezuelan government said opposition leaders incited protesters to violence and planned a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Thousands of activists taking part in anti-government protests that started February 4, were arrested. More than 40 people were killed in the protests that raged from February to May, according to the BBC.
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Brazil’s Torture and Execution Legacy.
The Brazilian government routinely used torture, summary executions and forced disappearances against dissidents during that country’s 20-year military dictatorship, according to a National Truth Commission report released Wednesday (December 10).
The three-year investigation concluded the violence of the anti-leftist campaign amounted to official policy. “During the military dictatorship, repression and elimination of political opponents became state policy, designed and implemented from decisions emanating from the presidency of the republic and the military ministries,” the report said, according to the Brazilian newspaper Estadao (according to Al Jazeera).
The report, based on over 1,000 testimonials, was presented to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, herself a former Marxist who suffered imprisonment and torture during the dictatorship, which ran from 1964 to 1985. The report documents 434 politically motivated killings and disappearances and provides nearly 400 names of those responsible – including more than 200 military officers, almost 70 of them generals, the Brazilian paper reported.
Other South American countries – Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – have all prosecuted those responsible for atrocities under their own military dictatorships in the 1970s and ‘80s. But Brazil, like South Africa is one of the few whose truth commission named not just the victims but those responsible for the crimes, Al Jazeera reported.
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Rap Ruse Ripped.
Newspapers in Cuba and Venezuela report that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was trying to foment discontent among Cuban young people through music – particularly rap and hip hop.
But Cuban rapper Aldo Rodriguez Baquero, a member of the popular hip hop group Los Aldeanos, says he never received money from (USAID), despite published reports Thursday (December 11) to the contrary, according to the Spanish version of the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald.
The publications cited an investigation by the Associated Press. Rodriguez Baquero said he didn’t know that Serbian promoter Rajko Bozic was a subcontractor of Creative Associates International, which held a contract with USAID. The Cuban rapper said he was unaware the company was working on a project to “recruit” him to “unleash a youth movement against the Cuban government,” according to the AP.
On at least six occasions, Cuban authorities detained or interrogated people involved in the program; they also confiscated computer hardware that in some cases contained information that jeopardized Cubans who likely had no idea they were caught up in a clandestine U.S. operation. Still, contractors working for USAID kept putting themselves and their targets at risk, the AP investigation found.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department, said the conduct described in the AP report “suggests an alarming lack of concern for the safety of Cubans involved, and anyone who knows Cuba could predict it would fail.” Leahy added that USAID “never informed Congress about this and should never have been associated with anything so incompetent and reckless.”
LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Election; Brazil Buying Gripens; BRICS Talk Military Products; SOUTHCOM and Ebola
Brazil Re-elects Rousseff.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected in a tight race, defeating a challenge by a pro-business candidate of the Social Democracy Party, Aecio Neves. The left-leaning Rousseff won 51.6 percent of the vote Sunday (October 26), compared to Neves’ 48.4 percent polling, according to The Associated Press.
The AP called the bruising election contest “the tightest race the nation has seen since its return to democracy three decades ago.” Rousseff is a protégé of her immediate predecessor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who hand-picked her to take his place in 2010. Their Workers Party has held onto Brazil’s presidency since 2003. The contest came down to which candidate voters thought would be best for Brazil’s sagging economy — the world’s seventh-largest.
The majority of voters went with Rousseff’s policies which favor the poor and middle class Brazilians. But the country’s markets saw it differently. Brazilian stocks and the nation’s currency plunged in trading around the world Monday, USA Today reported. The country’s currency, the real, dropped 1.91 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday. But Brazil’s markets rebounded Tuesday (October 28). The country’s currency and stock markets closed higher as bargain hunters stepped in after Monday’s sharp selloff, according to Reuters.
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Gripen Jets for Brazil
Just a few hours after the election results were announced, Brazil and Swedish aircraft maker, Saab, said they had reached a $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter.
Saab will start delivering the first jets to the Brazilian Air Force in 2019 with deliveries running until 2024, according to Defense News.
The deal calls for 28 single-seat jets and eight two-seat aircraft. The two seaters will be developed with Brazilian industry, Defense News said, adding that Saab officials say negotiations are underway between Brazil and Sweden on a possible deal to lease Gripens until the first batch of Gripens are delivered.
Saab beat out Boeing’s F/A-18 and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighters last year as the winning contractor. The deal is the biggest order Saab aircraft have ever landed, Defense News said.
The full contract comes into effect once export control-related authorizations and other conditions are met, Saab said. The Gripensare replacing Brazil’s fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters, according to MarketWatch.
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Brazil, Russia, South Africa Talking
According to the Russian news agency TASS, three and maybe four members of the emerging economies group known as the BRICS are discussing the possibility of joint development of “military purpose products.”
TASS quoted the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Anatoly Punchuk as saying “In terms of BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], a series of major projects with India is being implemented now. South Africa shows more interest in cooperation with Russia in the joint development and production of military weaponry.”
Punchuk spoke in France where he is leading the Russian delegation at Euronaval 2014, an international naval defence and maritime exhibition and conference).
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SOUTHCOM Chief on Ebola
The head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) says the potential spread of the Ebola virus into Central and South America is a possibility that bears careful monitoring.
Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington earlier this month (October 8) Marine Corps General John Kelly said if the deadly virus that has killed 4,000 people in Africa makes its way to the Western Hemisphere, many countries, like Haiti, will have little ability to deal with an outbreak, according to DoD News.
“So, much like West Africa, it will rage for a period of time,” Kelly said. If the disease gets to countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, will cause a panic “and here will be mass migration,” Kelly predicted.
He added that SOUTHCOM is in close contact with U.S. Africa Command to see what practices are working there.
On another issue, Kelly told the university audience that Central America needs a campaign plan to combat transnational crime syndicates, reinstitute the rule of law and regain sovereignty over their own territories.
Citing Colombia as a success story, Kelly said the government in Bogota shows what a country can do to throw off narcoterrorists and reassert government control. “They are a great example of what can be done so long as a government and a people — along with some help from the United States” work together towards a common goal, DoD News reported.
Colombia battled FARC leftist rebels for six decades — half of that time fighting violent narcotics cartels as well — before restoring the rule of law and re-establishing security throughout the country.
El Salvador, Guatemala and El Salvador are in the same situation Colombia was in in the mid-1980s, Kelly said.
Soldiers vs Vigilantes vs Drug Gangs
The Mexican government’s attempts to quell violence between vigilantes battling drug gangs in the southwesterrn state of Michoacan have turned deadly in a confrontation between the military and civilians.
There are contradictory reports on the number of casualties in the town of Antunez where soldiers were reported to have opened fire early Tuesday (January 14) on an unarmed crowd blocking the street. The Associated Press is reporting that its reporters saw the bodies two men said to have died in the incident. AP journalists said they also spoke with the family of a third man reportedly killed in the same incident.
The Los Angeles Times reported that 12 people were said to have died in the clash, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma. The self-defense groups began organizing last year to protect local people from the drug gang known as the Knights Templar, who were extorting and otherwise terrorizing residents of Tierra Caliente, an important farming region west of Mexico City.
Local citizens said they had to arm themselves because federal troops failed to guarantee their security. On Monday (January 13) Mexico’s interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, urged the vigilantes to lay down their arms, the BBC reported.
The Knights Templar, who control much of the methamphetamine trade to the United States, say the vigilantes have sided with a rival gang, the New Generation cartel. But the self-defense groups fiercely deny that.
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Ecuador’s First Drone
Ecuador has developed its first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa revealed the country’s first drone on local television Saturday (January 11), according to the Russian television network, RT (Russia Today).
The drone, called the UAV-Gavilan (Spanish for hawk), cost half a million dollars, a significant savings for Ecuador — which, 2007 paid $20 million for six Israeli-made UAVs, according to the Associated Press.
The gasoline-powered, carbon fiber and wood UAV was designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force to help the country, which borders both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, fight drug trafficking, Correa said. He added that the Gavilan tracked a ship loaded with drugs for six hours before authorities intercepted the vessel.
Its video cameras and sensors will help the Euadorian Air Force monitor the country’s borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as assisting investigations. Ecuador plans to produce four of the UAVs for itself and then sell others to interested countries in Latin America.
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FARC Ends Ceasefire
Colombia’s Marxist rebels announced Wednesday (January 15) that they were ending their unilateral holiday ceasefire with government forces.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — widely known by their Spanish acronym FARC –announced in Havana, Cuba, where it has been in peace negotiations with the government that it was ending the ceasefire it declared December 15, Reuters reported.
The rebels, who have battled the government in Bogota for five decades, accused government armed forces and police units of pursuing “aggressions and provocations.”s
theThe FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared a one-month ceasefire on December 15 and said in a statement issued on Wednesday, “we lived up to our word… despite permanent aggressions and provocations by the government’s armed forces and police units.”
While the FARC has repeatedly called for both sides to end hostilities, President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to agree. The rebels previously observed another unilateral cease-fire that lasted two months, the Associated Press reported.
The FARC has been fighting the government in a brutal guerrilla war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in jungle and urban attacks. The revolt began as a peasant movement seeking land reform but in recent years the FARC — branded a terrorist organization by the United States — is reported to have aligned itself with Colombian drug cartels, obtaining much of its funding through narcotics sales. The FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army — estimated to number 8,000 — in the Western Hemisphere..