Posts filed under ‘BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)’
In advance of the Confederationss Cup soccer (football) tournament going on now at stadiums across Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country launched its biggest military exercise to secure its enormous border.
Called Operation Agatha, the exercise sought to halt the flow of drugs and weapons into Brazil, which will see a papal visit next month, Soccer’s World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
The Brazilian government called out 33,500 troops and police to secure the country’s 10,492-mile border, which it shares with 10 other nations. Unmanned aircraft as well as planes, helicopters, river patrol boats and all manner of ground vehicles were used in the effort to impede cross-border drug, weapon and human trafficking.
Up to 90 percent of the narcotics entering the world market are trafficked into Brazil from Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia, according to Brazil’s ministry of defense. Over 25,300 tons of marijuana and 1,448 pounds of cocaine, crack, and hashish were seized.
During Operation Agatha, the Brazilian Army seized almost five tons of explosives coming into the country from Paraguay. According the military, the dynamite would likely have been used in the Amazon region to extract gold in the remote areas of the jungle by illegal miners, according to the Monitor.
The focus of the $20 million exercise was “about the protection of our people, which benefits our country as a whole. It is also about building good relationships with our neighbours as we help to protect their citizens as well,” General José Carlos De Nardi, Brazil’s Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, told The Independent.
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Meanwhile, massive demonstrations continued in several Brazilian cities where Confederations Cup games were held, the Associated Press reported.
Originally sparked by a planned rise in Sao Paulo bus fares, the protests have taken on a life of their own – much like protests in Turkey, although have mostly been peaceful – and have drawn students, urban poor and middle class liberals protesting government corruption and the billions being spent on sports venues instead of funding improvements to schools, hospitals and transit systems.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff – previously one of the country’s most popular leaders – has seen her government’s approval rating plunge by 27 percent, since the unrest started, to just 30 per cent according to an opinion poll published Saturday, the Irish Times reported.
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Iran Influence Waning?
The U.S. State Department says Iran is not actively backing terrorist cells in South America and Iran’s influence in Latin America is waning, Bloomberg reported.
A State Department report says Iran’s interest in Latin America is a “concern,” but sanctions have undermined efforts by the Islamic republic to expand its economic and political toehold in the region.
But some Republicans in Congress were unimpressed by the report’s findings. “I believe the Administration has failed to consider the seriousness of Iran’s presence here at home,” said Congressman Jeff Duncan, a South Caroloina Republican who wrote the legislation requiring the State Department report, told Bloomberg He said he questioned “the methodology that was used in developing this report.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced in May that three surveillance drones built with Iran’s help had been launched as part of an initiative to curb drug trafficking, FOX News Latino reported.
LATIN AMERICA: (UPDATE) OAS-War on Drugs; Colombia on NATO; Brazil-U.S. Meeting; Ex-Guatemala Dictator
OAS Pushback on Drugs
The Organization of American States (OAS) is holding its annual general assembly meeting in Antigua, Guatemala and the War on Drugs will be Topic A.
According to the Los Angeles Times, several Latin American governments are expected to call on the United States to find “alternatives to what is seen as an approach to fighting drugs that leans heavily on law enforcement — a strategy that has cost tens of thousands of mostly Latin American lives.”
The hemispheric organization recently issued a report that urged governments to decriminalize some drug use. Latin American nations like Mexico, Honduras — and host nation Guatemala — have been battered by drug-related corruption and violence that has left thousands of civilians, soldiers and police dead.
While the OAS study calls for discussion on legalizing marijuana, it makes no specific proposals and found there is “no significant support” among the 35 OAS members for legalizing cocaine or other drugs, the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. delegation, headed by Secretary of State John Kerry, isn’t expected to accept the concept of decriminalizing marijuana use. At the Summit of the Americas last year, President Obama said he believed drug legalization was “not the answer” to the problem of drug-related violence and narco terrorism.
A senior State Department official in the U.S. delegation told reporters Tuesday (June 4) in a background briefing that Kerry “wants to contribute to a really good conversation” about counter narcotics strategy because “last year when this started, there was a lot of buzz about legalization, but there really wasn’t much behind it. There weren’t a whole lot of facts in that conversation.”
“No” to NATO
Colombia’s defense minister says the South American nation may sign a cooperation agreement on human rights, justice and troop training with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – but has not intention of joining NATO.
Juan Carolos Pinzon told a radio station that Colombia “cannot be a member, does not want to be a member of NATO.” His remarks came after President Juan Manuel Santos said his nation and NATO were going to sign an agreement “to start a whole process of reaching out, of cooperation, also with a look at entering that organization.”
That report caused an uproar among Colombia’s neighbors, especially leftist governments in Bolivia and Venezuela. But NATO officials, quoted by the AP said no membership deal is in the works. Colombia, which has been fighting a 60-year insurgency by leftist guerillas’ aligned with narcotics cartels, has been a key U.S. ally in the war on drugs.
Meeting in Brazil
Tom Kelly, the Acting U.S. Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs is in Brazil this week for the 2013 U.S.-Brazil Political Military Dialogue.
The meeting – which seeks to strengthen defense and security relations between the two countries comes in advance of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Washington with President Obama later this year.
Brazil, South America’s largest country by population and area, is also home to the continent’s largest economy. In recent years, Brazil has enlarged its military and military equipment – submarines, aircraft and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets – as part of a new security strategy to protect both its water resources in the Amazon and energy resources in the South Atlantic.
Last month, the former dictator of Guatemala was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Central American country. But just a few days later (May 21), the country’s highest court overturned the verdict. Because of a jurisdictional dispute in the case dating back to April 19, Reuters reported.
Efrain Rios Montt, 86, was convicted May 10 of overseeing the killings of more than 1,000 of the Maya Ixil population in the early 1980s. But the Constitutional Court threw out the verdict and ordered the proceeeding void going back to April 19 when a jurisdictional dispute arose after one of the presiding judges suspended the trial — because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it.
It was unclear when the trial might restart.
Indian Army Private Anil Pawe and Spc. Henry Vaillancourt, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, partner up to fire an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Vaillancourt is familiarizing Pawe — an infantryman assigned to the Indian Army’s 99th Mountain Brigade — with the American machine gun prior to field training during the annual U.S. – India Yudh Abhyas training exercise, which ended May 17.
The joint exercise dates to 2004. Yudh Abhyas means “training for war,” in Hindi. About 200 Indian troops from units including the 50th Independent Para Brigade and the 5th Gurkha Rifles participated.
For more photos of this training exercise, click here.
Transnational Crime in Africa, Latin America
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – 4GWAR has reported in the past on how Latin American drug cartels are using countries in West Africa as transit points for drugs heading to Europe and points East. Now we learn from a federal official that small arms – particularly shotguns and shotgun shells – have become an illicit trading commodity in West Africa.
Many countries in West Africa have porous borders, weak law enforcement agencies or grinding poverty that makes government officials susceptible to bribes and corruption – and attractive for arms and drug smugglers. Officials in Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania and Sierra Leone have been implicated in drug trafficking in recent years, according to a United Nations report. Guinea-Bissau is considered to be virtually under the control of narco cartels.
Kevin O’Keefe, chief of the Criminal Intelligence Division at the U.S. ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) told a conference on transnational organized crime this week that the low tech, low maintenance weapons like shotguns are being shipped illegally to places like Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. They are sought, not for military or terrorist use, but as a commodity to be bought and sold on the black market.
Shotguns are “not readily available in those countries, so anything you bring over, you’re going to make a profit on,” O’Keefe told 4GWAR after his presentation at the Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).
“Nobody’s going to overthrow a country or command any big presence with shotguns,” O’Keefe said, “but we find 12-gauge shotguns being regularly trafficked back there because they’re easy to move and if you pay a couple hundred dollars here, there’s a big profit margin once you sell them in these countries.”
At the same conference, the head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) said drugs like cocaine were being shipped from several South American countries – including Brazil – to West Africa. But Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who oversees U.S. Military interests in all of Central and South America – except Mexico – noted that nearly all the navies and maritime police operations in the region were helping in the war on drugs. The Brazilian Navy has taken it upon itself to patrol the South Atlantic looking for pirates and other criminal activities in the waters off West Africa, he noted.
“Brazil is oriented toward Africa,” said Kelly, noting it shares a common language – Portuguese – with several African nations that were once Portuguese colonies. “Brazil is starting to step out and wants to become a world power,” Kelly said, adding that it is concerned about piracy and sees counter-piracy as a “niche” operation it can perform. He noted that a Brazilian naval officer has served with the U.S. 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, which oversees U.S. counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Brazil’s Navy has also participated in patrol operations with the U.S. Navy off West Africa, he said.
Xi in Africa
China’s new president, Xi Jinping, is in the middle of a four day tour of Africa – part of his first trip abroad as national leader.
Xi will be attending a two day conference of leaders of the so-called BRICS countries starting today (March 26). The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – form an economic bloc made up of many of the world’s leading emerging economies. But Xi is also trying to assure Africans that China interest in their continent isn’t just as a market for its manufactured goods and a source of the raw materials needed by its factories.
His first stop in Africa this week (March 24) was Tanzania. China has had a close relationship with the country since it gained its independence from Britain in the 1960s. Thousands of Chinese engineers and laborers built a railroad connecting Tanzania with Zambia in the ’60s and ’70s, according to Xinhua’s English.news.cn website.
At a conference center in Dar es Salaam built with Chinese assistance, Xi assured the audience and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete that China was interested in helping African nations develop their economies, pledging $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next two years. He also said China would train 30,000 African professionals, offer 18,000 scholarships to African students and “increase technology transfer and experience,” Reuters reported.
China’s trade with all African countries reached $198 billion in total value in 2012, an increase of 19.3 percent from 2011, according to Chinese customs statistics, the New York Times reported. Much of that trade consists of oil, minerals and other commodities from Angola, Nigeria and other resource-rich countries, the Times said.
After the two-day BRICS meeting Durban, South Africa, Xi will wind up his first foreign tour with a visit to the Republic of Congo (not be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo — formerly known as Zaire.)
At a Washington symposium on conservation and national security that your 4GWAR editor attended last week, a former Bush administration diplomat said China had made Africa “strategic.”
“I think that strategic engagement is going to translate into political influence and geo-strategic influence,” said Jendayi Frazer, the first woman appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “I think it will show up in things like the United Nations Security Council and how votes start to go in the U.N. General Assembly and other such venues,” she added.
But, “African citizens are becoming increasingly impatient with the flood of Chinese laborers” into their labor markets “and particularly, cheap goods and the supply chain” supporting Chinese traders in the African marketplace. “It’s a big problem,” she told the gathering, co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and Conservation International.
Frazer, now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, noted however, that China’s “model of supporting business and their strategic outlook in Africa, is something we in the West should emulate. We should do a better job of helping our private sector” in Africa and other regions.
[You can see a video of Frazer and some of the other speakers at this symposium by clicking here. Your 4GWAR editor’s question about AFRICOM is at 57 minutes and 55 seconds on the tape. Frazer’s comments on China in Africa are at 1 hour, 3 minutes into the tape, followed by her comments on AFRICOM.]
Mali UpdateSix people – including one civilian – have been killed in fighting between Islamist rebels and French and Malian forces in the northern city of Gao (see map), according to Voice of America.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate has named a replacement for a key commander killed by Chadian soldiers in Mali’s northern mountains last month, according to an Algerian broadcaster, VOA reported. The new guy, Djamel Okacha – also known as Yahia Abu El Hamam – is slated to replace Abdelhamid Abou Zeid as a leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, commonly known as AQIM, according to Algeria’s Ennahar TV.
Kidnappings on Rise
Westerners, particularly French nationals, are being targeted for abduction by Islamist militants, angered over France’s campaign against anti-government Islamist insurgents in Mali, according to The Africa Report website.
Analysts suspect that terrorist groups in Nigeria, Mali, Chad and Niger are working together to avenge what they see as a war on radical Islam, the website said.
The latest attack came Tuesday (Feb. 20) when a family of French tourists – including four children – were kidnapped in Cameroon by armed men on motorbikes. The seven French nationals were seized near a wildlife sanctuary in northern Cameroon and were taken across the border into Nigeria. No group has taken credit for the attack although authorities suspect Ansarum, an offshoot of the violent Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram.
The incident brings to 15 the number of French nationals being held by kidnappers in Northwest Africa. Seven French nationals are being held by an al Qaeda affiliate – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Another Frenchman was taken by Ansarum last June, according to the BBC.
On Saturday, seven foreigners were kidnapped during an attack on a Lebanese construction site in northern Nigeria. Ansarum has taken responsibility for that attack, saying it was in retaliation for France’s attack on militants in Mali. Islamist extremists have been responsible for the deaths of numerous foreigners in Nigeria including North Korean doctors and Chinese construction workers, according to The Guardian.
Brazil, Angola Seek Closer Ties
The governments of Brazil and Angola have agreed to form a joint defense committee to supervise cooperation and annual meetings to be held in both countries, the Angola Press Agency (ANGOP) reports.
The agreement was announced in a communique issued at the end of a two-day visit to Angola’s capital, Luanda, by a Brazilian delegation headed by Defense Minister Celso Nunes Morim.
Morim, who was accompanied by several business people on the trip, told a press briefing at the Angolan Foreign Ministry that Brazil is looking to cooperate with Angola on defense issues like training and joint exercises, according to ANGOP. “The simple fact that these business people have come to Angola shows that the interest is not restricted to selling alone, but also to seek partnerships and joint investment possibilities as this is important for the country’s development,” Nunes Morin stated.
Angola is looking to Brazil for support to strengthen its own defence industry, to reduce the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA)’s dependence on foreign military equipment sales, according to Angola’s defense minister, Cândido Pereira dos Santos Van-Dunem.
Brazil has the strongest economy in South America and has been looking for foreign partners to supply equipment and manufacturing technology to strengthen its defense forces and defense industry.
Both countries are former Portuguese colonies.
Tunisia, the North African country — where the Arab Spring began more than two years ago — has been lurching through a political crisis since Feb. 6 when leftist politician and opposition leader Chokri Belaid was assassinated.
No one took responsibility for the fatal shooting but Belaid’s supporters blamed the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party — which vehemently denied any hand in the murder — according to AFP via channelnewsasia.com
The politician’s murder sparked violent street protests and strikes. Then-Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali tried to defuse the situation by announcing plans to create a non-Islamist cabinet of technocrats. The proposal failed and Jebali, resigned.
Now Presidentr Moncef Marzouki has been holding meetings with top politicians to pull the country out of the crisis.
Meanwhile, according to ForeignPolicy.com‘s Middle East Channel, the political instability is hurting Tunisia’s fragile economy. Remember: It was protests about high unemployment and food prices as well as government corruption that precipitated regime change in January 2011. Now Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Tunisia’s credit rating because of the “risk that the political situation could deteriorate further…”
Brazil: May Buy Russian Air Defense System
Brazil’s Defense Ministry says it will recommend that the government buy anti-aircraft and air defense systems from Russia, Reuters reports. According to a statement on its website, the Defense Ministry said it would present a proposal to President Dilma Rouseff for her approval.
Gen. Jose Carlos De Nardi, chief of staff of Brazil’s Armed Forces, said Brazil is interested inacquiring three batteries of medium level Pantsir-S1 missiles and two batteries of Igla missiles.
According to Pravda, De Nardi headed a Brazilian delegation that visited Russia last month to discuss the arms purchase. The deal is expected to be signed later this month when Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits Brazil. Part of the deal would be a technology transfer allowing Brazil to make and sell the missile systems in Latin America.
And the Moscow Times reports that Medvedev’s deputy, Dmitry Rogozin, says Russia would be interested in starting a long-term military partnership with Brazil.
We told you last month that Brazil, the world’s 6th largest economy has been building up its military capabilities as part of a defense strategy to safeguard its borders, offshore oil fields and the Amazon basin from foreign intrusion. That buildup has drawn several foreign defense contractors like France’s DCNS, America’s Boeing and Sweden’s Saab to bid for Bazil’s business.
Colombia: FARC Rebels Propose Legalizing Coca, Marijuana Crops
The rebel group that has been waging war against Colombia’s government since the 1960s has come up with a novel idea for land reform: legalizing some of the cash crops that can be turned into illegal narcotics, the BBC reports.
The guerrillas’ proposal came during ongoing peace talks in Cuba with the Colombian government. The chief negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the acronym FARC, said legalization of drug crops like poppy, coca and marijuana should be considered for therapeutic, industrial or cultural reasons. Land reform and ending drug trafficking have been two key topics at the negotiations
Chile: Not Exactly a Sea Chanty
Embarrassed officials in Chile are promising a swift investigation into a viral video showing Chilean naval cadets chanting they will kill opponents in three neighboring nations — they are not at war with.
According to CNN, the video shows the cadets repeating the cadence of their instructor: “Argentineans I will kill; Bolivians I will shoot; Peruvians I’ll behead” as they run through the streets. Historically, Chile has had prickly relationships with its neighbors — like Bolivia whose seacoast Chile seized in a 19th Century war, the BBC reported.
Click on all of the maps to enlarge the image.