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Cablegate: Brazil: Four Senators Take On the Fourth Fleet

VZCZCXRO5651
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #1002/01 2061626
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241626Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2168
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6992
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4670
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5719
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 4195
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 6432
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 3908
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 2561
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0510
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 8314
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 6448
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 2487
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 001002

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PREL XM BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: FOUR SENATORS TAKE ON THE FOURTH FLEET

REF: BRASILIA 943

1. (SBU) Summary. Four members of the Senate Foreign
Affairs and National Defense Committee visited Ambassador
Sobel on July 9 to express objections to the re-establishment
of the Fourth Fleet, and called on President Bush to reverse
it. They asked the Ambassador to transmit their objections
to both U.S. presidential candidates. They repeated their
objections to waiting media outside the Embassy gate.
Mission is conducting public affairs outreach to counter
misconceptions about the Fourth Fleet. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On July 9, Ambassador received four members of the
Senate Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee who
wanted express objections to the re-establishment of the
Fourth Fleet. Their visit followed recent statements by
Presidents Lula and Chavez at the Mercosul Summit last June,
covered in generally negative media reports. In a related
development, Ambassador met with FM Amorim on July 3 to
discuss the Fleet (reftel). The Senate group included
Cristovam Buarque (PDT - Democratic Workers Party; left;
government coalition; of the Federal District), Eduardo
Suplicy (PT - Workers' Party; left; lead party in the
government coalition; of Sao Paulo), Pedro Simon (PMDB -
Brazilian Democratic Movement Party; non-ideological;
government coalition; of Rio Grande do Sul), and Joao Pedro
(PT; of Amazonas).

3. (SBU) Senator Simon objected to the fleet's
re-establishment on a number of grounds. He said he did not
believe media reports linking the Fleet's re-establishment to
the Brazil's recent discoveries of offshore oil reserves or
that the U.S. has designs on the Amazon region, but demanded
to know the rationale for the re-establishment's timing.
Senator Simon said that President Bush, with only a few
months remaining in his term of office, and low popularity
ratings, had "no right" to reactivate the Fourth Fleet, and
should have left such a decision to his successor. He
suggested that the Fleet represented a threat to Brazilian
democracy, and recalled that published reports, including a
book by former U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon, have
stated that U.S. warships were off the Brazilian coast in
1964 to assist the Brazilian military at the time of the coup
d'etat had there been resistance from then-President Joao
Goulart.

4. (SBU) After hearing Ambassador's explanation of the
Fleet's purpose, Simon argued that humanitarian relief and
disaster assistance tasks could be carried out without a
fleet, and therefore the fleet was unnecessary. Senator
Suplicy asked whether the Fleet was coming to the Brazilian
coast. He acknowledged that U.S.-Brazilian bilateral
relations are very good, and suggested that for that reason
we would be able to have a dialogue even in a crisis. Like
Simon, he said the Fleet reminds Brazilians of the military
regime, and said Brazilians want instead peaceful movements
in keeping with the peaceful character of the region. Simon
predicted that if the re-establishment is not canceled, a
movement in the hemisphere will grow against the Fourth Fleet.

5. (SBU) Simon and Joao Pedro posed several specific
questions about the Fleet, such as how many ships were in it,
what is its purpose, and how many doctors are in the Fleet.

6. (SBU) Ambassador Sobel stressed that no ships are
assigned permanently to the Fleet, it is not being
reactivated with an offensive purpose, and ships assigned to
it would not come into Brazilian waters without Brazilian
permission. He noted that the Fleet's configurations vary
according to the specific mission, and described the missions
of the USNS Comfort that have provided medical services to
tens of thousands of patients. The Fleet will engage in
joint training with other navies from the hemisphere, he
said, and the U.S. has a long tradition of respecting other
countries' territorial waters. Mission will provide
additional details about the Fourth Fleet in information
packets to be presented to the Chairman of the Foreign

BRASILIA 00001002 002 OF 002


Relations and National Defense Committee.

Mission Public Diplomacy

7. (U) Post has been conducting an information campaign on
the Fourth Fleet: Information Officer gave an interview on
the Fourth Fleet to the CBN radio network, and PAS placed an
op-ed by the Ambassador in two national dailies and a letter
from Southcom Commander Admiral James Stavridis in two other
national dailies. WHA A/S Thomas Shannon's remarks on the
Fleet to the media in Sao Paulo got very favorable coverage
in all major media on July 10. PAS, the Foreign Press
Center, and SouthCom PA organized a tour to the Fourth Fleet
inauguration on July 12 that included Brazilian press.
Mission issued a press release immediately after the
senators' visit and able to ensure balance in media coverage
of their meeting with the Ambassador, but more work is
required to set the record straight on the Fourth Fleet.
Mission will distribute information packets to media and
leading political figures.

Comment.

8. (SBU) Without sufficient public information and private
engagement from our side, misconceptions about the Fourth
Fleet could fester and take hold. Many Brazilians harbor
suspicions about U.S. intentions in Brazil and the region,
and the atmosphere is ripe for a new myth about U.S. plans.
While the Vice President told us in private, and Navy
Commander and Defense Minister said in public that they are
not concerned about the Fourth Fleet, we need to continue
engaging senior Brazilians, opinion leaders, and the media to
dispel misconceptions.
KUBISKE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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