воскресенье, 9 ноября 2014 г.

Brazil Military Drills to Defend Amazon

By Simon Romero


Brazil’s army is deploying troops this month to the far reaches of the Amazon in a military exercise simulating a foreign invasion of the rain forest, focusing attention on sensitivity over sovereignty in a region rising in importance as a strategic pillar of Latin America’s largest economy.

The troop mobilization, starting on Monday and called Operation Machifaro, points to a deepening of a central element of military doctrine in Brazil, which holds the defense of the Amazon as a top priority. The Amazon’s mineral wealth and vast reserves of fresh water place the region “in the context of potential threats,” military officials here said in a statement.

“The operation will provide ways for optimizing a strategy of resistance in the region,” said Gen. Guilherme Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira, chief of Brazil’s Amazon Military Command. He also emphasized that the exercise was aiming to “consolidate a doctrine of jungle combat.”

The drill aims to prepare soldiers to respond to a foreign military force larger than Brazil’s armed forces, officials said. While Brazil has long been at peace with its smaller neighbors in the Amazon and no country was specified by name in the preparations for the exercise, some military strategists in Brazil have long focused on the United States as a potential threat.

Officials in Brazil and the United States have rejected the possibility of any military clash between the two countries, the most populous in the Americas, over the Amazon, and ties between Brasília and Washington remain cordial though somewhat strained after revelations in 2013 that the National Security Agency had spied on President Dilma Rousseff and her inner circle.

In fact, a chance for improving relations may be emerging after Ms. Rousseff’s office noted positively that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had called her this month to congratulate her on her re-election and renew an invitation for her to visit Washington. Ms. Rousseff postponed a state visit in 2013 after the reports of N.S.A. spying.

Still, the army’s drill reflects thinking in Brazil that foreign powers covet the Amazon, about 60 percent of which is in the country. Fifty percent of Brazilians believe that their country will be invaded in an effort to grab the Amazon’s resources, according to 2011 opinion survey by a government statistics agency. The poll, which interviewed 3,796 people, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Brazil expanded its military presence in the Amazon during the dictatorship that held power from 1964 to 1985, when generals offered incentives to settlers to occupy the frontier. While some political analysts contend that potential invasions belong in the realm of conspiracy theories, others delve into history to show that foreign designs on the Amazon are not so far-fetched.

History books like “The Deepest South,” which describes an antebellum plan by southerners in the United States to develop the Amazon with American slaves, have been translated into Portuguese and discussed in the Brazilian news media.


Brazil’s army also drew inspiration from history in naming its latest military exercise, which involves 550 troops here in Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city, and outposts like Santa Isabela do Rio Negro and Caracaraí. Machifaro is a region of the Amazon where in the 16th century resistance coalesced against Spain’s attempts to gain control of large portions of the rain forest held then by the Portuguese empire.


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