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Cablegate: Brazil: Lula Takes On the Fourth Fleet

VZCZCXRO3783
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #0943/01 1921249
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 101249Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2090
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 6972
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 4667
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 5699
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 4192
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ PRIORITY 6414
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 3905
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 7470
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 2558
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 0490
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE PRIORITY 8263
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO PRIORITY 6396
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO PRIORITY 2420
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 000943

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/03/2018
TAGS: MARR PREL BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: LULA TAKES ON THE FOURTH FLEET

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Lisa Kubiske, reasons 1.4 (B and
D).

1. (C) Summary: During the Mercosul Summit in Argentina,
President Lula together with other South American leaders,
such as Bolivian president Evo Morales and Venezuelan
president Chavez, criticized the re-establishment of the
Fourth Fleet Chavez, with Lula at his side, called it a
"threat" to the region and an attempt to grab the region's
natural resources. Lula questioned the U.S.'s intentions,
suggesting that it resulted from recent oil discoveries along
the Brazilian coast. Brazilian news media is compounding the
problem with sensationalist and often inaccurate reporting on
the establishment of the Fourth Fleet. Foreign Minister
Amorim, upon Lula's request, called Ambassador Sobel in to
request more information on the Fourth Fleet and to express
his concern that the U.S. had not been as forthcoming as he
would have liked. Separately, Vice-President Alencar
recommended that the U.S. promptly respond to Lula's comments
before another myth relating to U.S. intentions in the region
takes hold. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Despite Media Inaccuracies, Brazil Issues a "Warning"
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (U) The 2 July editions of daily newspapers O Globo, Folha
de Sao Paulo and Valor Economico, among the most widely read
national newspapers, contained articles with inaccurate facts
about the establishment of the Fourth Fleet and reported
criticism of it by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and
Brazilian President Lula during the Mercosul Summit in
Argentina, with the former calling it a "threat" to countries
in the region and a natural resource-grab on the part of the
U.S. President Lula suggested that its reactivation was due
to Brazil's recent offshore oil discoveries and stated that
he had already instructed Foreign Minister Amorim to request
explanations from Secretary Rice.

3. (U) The articles included a weeks' old quote from Minister
Jobim who, on first hearing of the Fleet from the media,
responded that "Brazil will not allow the Fourth Fleet to
enter and operate within the limits of the (Brazilian)
territorial sea. This is not a boast, but a warning. If it
enters territorial waters, Brazil will have every right to
protest and the U.S. will not want a diplomatic incident.
Anyway, the reactivation shows an urgent need to re-equip and
modernize the Brazilian Navy..." Moreover, some of the press
articles reported, inaccurately, that the USS George
Washington and 11 other vessels will make up the fleet, and
Brazilian military analysts are quoted asserting that this is
a U.S. move to reaffirm Latin America as its area of
influence and to respond to Brazilian efforts to establish a
South American Defense Council that would stand outside the
U.S. orbit.

4. (U) Negative press coverage of the Fourth Fleet continued
into the weekend. Various articles and opinion columns
called the establishment of the Fleet an "arrogant" move by
the U.S., and a diplomatic blunder. In Jornal do Brasil on 5
July, Senator Cristovam Buarque (Democratic Labor Party, PDT,
government coalition; of the Federal District) indicated he
had heard from unnamed American "leaders" that the purpose of
the Fleet was to "control" governments the U.S. considered
unfriedly. (Note: On July 9 Ambassador Sobel met with four
senators from the Foreign Relations and National Defense
Committee who remained unsatisfied with the explanations
Embassy gave and U.S. actions in establishing the Fourth
Fleet. A read-out of this meeting will be reported septel.
End note.)

--------------------------------
"The U.S. Needs to Respond"
--------------------------------

5. (C) During Embassy Brasilia's July 2 Fourth of July
reception, the Ambassador asked Vice President Alencar, along

BRASILIA 00000943 002 OF 003


with Brazilian Navy Chief Admiral Moura Neto, about Lula's
remarks regarding the Fleet. Neither Alencar nor Moura Neto
knew the reasons behind Lula's remarks but noted that now
that he had made them the U.S. needed a policy to respond to
them. Alencar, who had just made unexpected and effusive
public remarks in support of our bilateral relationship, told
the Ambassador that "nothing should be allowed to stand in
the way of the U.S.-Brazil partnership." Alencar recommended
that Secretary Rice place a call to President Lula explaining
the purpose of the Fourth Fleet and how it is actually a
positive vehicle for improved relations.

----------------------------------
Amorim Calls Ambassador Sobel
----------------------------------

6. (C) On July 3, Foreign Minister Amorim requested
Ambassador Sobel meet with him to seek clarification on the
Fourth Fleet. Amorim said that President Lula had asked him
to contact Secretary Rice, which he was doing through the
Ambassador. Amorim stressed Brazil's concerns regarding the
Fourth Fleet by going over the sensitivities Brazil has with
regard to intrusions on the country's sovereignty. In
particular, he noted the case of the alleged American grade
school textbook map of the Amazon region that suggests the
region would be internationalized. (Note: It is an
unfortunate and revealing testament to the perseverance of
the myth of American designs on the Amazon that the Brazilian
Foreign Minister would reinforce his concern over the Fourth
Fleet by citing this long-discredited hoax. We will provide
material to Amorim's staff demonstrating that the textbook
and the map are forgeries. End note)

7. (C) Echoing Lula's comments linking the Fourth Fleet to
oil discoveries along the Brazilian coast, Amorim raised his
concern over comments, which he suggested had come from U.S.
officials, that one of the purposes of the Fleet was to
protect strategic resources in the region, to "include oil".
(Note: We are not aware of U.S. government officials having
made such comments. End note). Referring to the "excellent
relations" between our two countries, Amorim said that
transparency was essential to maintaining these good
relations, and a lack of transparency could be exploited by
those seeking to create problems.

8. (C) Ambassador Sobel responded by explaining that the
Fourth Fleet has no offensive capability, that no ships are
permanently assigned to it, that it consists of a planning
staff based in Florida, and that it will enhance our
capability to do joint exercises, provide disaster relief,
and plan peacekeeping operations, among other missions.
Furthermore, the Ambassador added, it is intended to
demonstrate our commitment to enhancing our partnerships in
Latin America. Amorim stopped the Ambassador to clarify: "So
this is a fleet without ships?", he asked. The Ambassador
assured him it was, and Amorim noted that, although he now
understood this was a "virtual" fleet, this was not the
impression given, and the "apprehension" was heightened
because it is the United States creating the fleet.

9. (C) Amorim stressed that this was a politically sensitive
issue, and based on friendly and open relations, he was
surprised that he had received no communication on this issue
from the State Department. When asked about the Fourth Fleet
during Mercosul, President Lula turned to Amorim to ask him
for guidance, who was forced to reply that he only knew what
had appeared in the press. The Ambassador noted that
Admiral Stavridis had briefed Admiral Moura Neto and the
Brazilian military on the Fourth Fleet, but acknowledged that
we had failed to brief the Foreign Ministry. Amorim ended by
noting that he would tell President Lula that he had talked
to Ambassador Sobel and that the Secretary Rice would be
sending comprehensive material on the Fourth Fleet. He
stressed that more detailed information and a call from
Secretary Rice on this matter would be welcome, adding that
he was prepared to reach out to her on the issue.


BRASILIA 00000943 003 OF 003


------------------------------------
Post Public Affairs Response
------------------------------------

10. (C) Mission Brazil is in the process of implementing a
public relations effort to counteract these stories, and we
are reaching out to our government counterparts to do the
same. The Mission placed an op-ed on the July 7 edition of
daily newspaper O Globo clarifying the Fleet's purpose, and
sent a letter to the editor from Admiral Stavridis which was
published in Folha de Sao Paulo on July 8, and in Valor
Economico and Jornal do Brazil on July 9. We hope to send
Brazilian reporters based in Washington and New York to the
Fourth Fleet inauguration on July 12. Mission is translating
Department of Defense public information materials on the
Fleet into Portuguese and preparing information packets for
Brazilian defense reporters. And the Ambassador will be
prepared to address the issue during three upcoming press
roundtables in Brazilian, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo.


SOBEL

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