Minister of Defense rules out South American military integration

10/11/2003 - 21h11

Brasília, November 11, 2003 (Agência Brasil - ABr) - On Monday (10), the Minister of Defense, José Viegas, ruled out the proposal made by the chief of the Presidential Civilian Advisory Staff, Minister José Dirceu, for military integration in South America. Viegas explained that the government's intention is to establish "conditions that allow our region to live without the presence of forces from outside the region itself." The Minister said that Dirceu must have been referring to a group of actions called for by the government to guarantee the stability of countries in South America.

Neither is the Brazilian government going to send troops to Columbia. The Minister of Defense affirmed that it is Brazil's desire "to offer cooperation to end the Colombian conflict, but without supplying troops." According to Viegas, Colombia's domestic problems should be resolved by the Colombian government.

Viegas said that the government intends to increase its military presence in the Amazon next year, with a new brigade stationed in São Gabriel da Cachoeira, even if it is sure that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Farc, have no desire to enter Brazilian territory. The Minister also said that he is unaware of any plan by the United States to send more troops to the region.

The Minister of Defense spoke in favor, however, of joint commercial operations by South American countries to obtain better results in the purchase of military equipment. For the Minister, outfitting the armed forces "does not set off a weapons race. Rather, it signifies a crucial factor in the respectability acquired by the government."

The average age of the Army's combat vehicles is over 20, and half of the Armed Forces' ships and airplanes are no longer able to operate. The Minister of Defense hopes that parliamentary amendments will add to the resources allocated in the budget to his Ministry. (DAS)