Cablegate: Brazil's Thinking On Colombia-Us Defense Cooperation Agreement
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O 202131Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4909
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 9835
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 001041
WHA FOR A/S SHANNON, DAS MCMULLEN, AND, AND BSC
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/2019
TAGS: PREL MARR BR CO
SUBJECT: BRAZIL'S THINKING ON COLOMBIA-US DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT
REF: A. BOGOTA 2520 B. QUITO 0715
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Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Lisa Kubiske, reason: 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: The GOB has started to backtrack on its negative and kneejerk response to the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) and appears open to conversations to set straight the disinformation campaign produced by Brazil,s more left-leaning neighbors. After his August 6 meeting with Colombian President Uribe, Brazilian President Lula began mediating the tensions in the region set off by the DCA and presented a moderate stance on the Colombian bases during the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL) meeting in Quito on August 10 and agreed to attend a summit in Bariloche on August 28. GOB officials have been receptive to efforts by the Colombian Ambassador in Brazil to provide more information and transparency on the negotiations between the United States and Colombia and have expressed interest in the same engagement from USG officials. In conversations with various senior USG officials over the last two weeks, GOB officials have consistently maintained that their primary interest in the region is stability. Adverse reaction to the DCA demonstrates that there remains a significant degree of mistrust in Brazil regarding U.S. intentions in the region. End summary.
BRAZIL,S INITIAL RESPONSE -------------------------
2. (U) The GOB,s first reaction to the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) appeared to be based on a lack of information and fear that the DCA was aimed at countering a threat from Venezuela. In late July, Brazilian President Lula said "I,m not happy with the idea of another U.S. base in Colombia" and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told the press "what worries Brazil is a strong military presence whose aim and capability seems to go well beyond what might be needed inside Colombia." There were news reports that Amorim was working with Spain to coordinate a political effort from the EU and Latin American countries against the alleged expansion of a U.S. military presence in Colombia. Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia and Amorim complained to National Security Advisor General Jim Jones during his August 4 visit to Brasilia (septel) about the way the information and announcement of the U.S. accord with Colombia were being managed. Garcia highlighted the Amazon as being Brazil,s main concern because so often there is talk about internationalizing the rain forest. He, and several other Brazilian officials, said that the tension in the region caused by the U.S.-Colombia DCA puts Brazil in a bad situation. The Brazilian media quickly seized on the rhetoric against the DCA propagated by the more left-leaning elements in the region and Brazilian government, fueling what the Colombians have called a disinformation campaign. Many of the stories printed in Brazilian press in late July and early August were sensationalist and based on little fact, mischaracterizing the bases as U.S. bases and the accord as an attempt to militarize the region.
LULA TAKES URIBE,S MESSAGE ON BOARD AND TO UNASUL -----------------------------
3. (U) President Uribe,s whirlwind tour through Latin America August 4-6 to explain the scope of the DCA succeeded in allaying some of Brazil's fears (REF A). According to GOB and GOC statements to the Brazilian press, Lula, Amorim, and Minister of Defense Nelson Jobim met with Uribe for two hours on August 6, maintaining a positive tone throughout the meeting while expressing concerns over the use of Colombian military bases by the United States. Lula emphasized to Uribe the importance of working closely with all South American countries to counter narcotrafficking, independent of "external intervention." Lula also tried to convince Uribe to participate in the next Union of South American Nations (UNASUL) meeting to maintain an open dialogue over the bases. Amorim announced that the GOB saw Uribe,s visit as a very positive gesture and recognized that Colombia is a sovereign country with the right to negotiate the use of its air bases with the
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United States. But he asked that the accord be negotiated "with transparency."
4. (C) PolOffs met August 18 with Colombian Ambassador to Brazil Tony Jozame, who incidacted that Lula took on board Uribe,s clarifications of the DCA and U.S. use of Colombia air bases during Uribe,s August 6 visit to Brasilia. Jozame noted that, following the discussions with Uribe, Lula proved very helpful to the Colombians during the UNASUL summit in Quito by presenting a more moderate discourse and balancing Chavez,s rhetoric. Brazilian media reported that Lula and Argentina President Cristina Kirchner led an effort to prevent heated rhetoric regarding the U.S.-Colombia military cooperation from dominating the summit. During the event, Lula called for a UNASUL meeting with Presidents Obama and Uribe and noted the importance of hearing the views of Colombian officials regarding the U.S. presence in Colombia. In great part to Lula,s moderating efforts, the UNASUL declaration made no reference to the controversy surrounding the U.S.-Colombia DCA. Brazilian Ministry of Defense (MOD) contacts told EmbOffs that Lula did not stay until the end of the UNASUL meeting because Brazilian MOD Nelson Jobim prevailed on him not to, in an attempt to defuse the tension over the issue in Quito. Brazilian military officials have in recent weeks told Brazilian press and USG officials that they do not see the DCA as a regional threat.
COLOMBIAN MISSION CAMPAIGNING ITS VIEWS -------------------------
5. (C) Uribe told Brazilian officials that he had tasked his ambassador in Brazil to meet with the Brazilian Senate to explain fully the DCA and share with the Brazilians the documents of the negotiations with the United States. Jozame told the PollOff that he had already met with several members of the Brazilian Congress and was scheduled to meet with several other senior Brazilian officials and Latin American missions in Brasilia to discuss the DCA. Jozame also shared the documents he was sending to every Brazilian member of Congress, which included: a personal two-page letter from the Ambassador explaining the positive progress Colombia has made in recent years in its partnership with the United States to counter narcotrafficking, titled "Colombia: Yesterday and Today;" a two-page document outlining the objectives of the DCA with the United States; and a two-page document with nine points explaining what the DCA with the United States is and seven points explaining what it is not, written in an effort to clarify the disinformation that has been published in the press and advocated by Venezuela,s Chavez and others during the UNASUL meeting. (Note: these documents have been sent to WHA/BSC. End note.) Jozame said his clarifications were well received by Brazilian members of Congress and that he has invited Brazilian officials to visit the Colombian bases if they want to see it for themselves.
6. (C) Jozame suggested that USG officials reach out to the GOB as well to give them greater detail and information on the DCA, to "clear the air," and to counter misinformation. Jozame also welcomed the coordination of efforts and messages being given to the Brazilians.
PRESIDENCY ADVISOR EXPLAINS BRAZIL,S REACTION --------------------------
7. (C) Foreign Policy Advisor Ambassador Marcel Biato explained Brazil,s reaction to the DCA in a meeting with the Charge on August 19. He denied that it represented an effort to promote UNASUL at the expense of the United States. Rather, he said, Brazil,s main interest is to maintain peace in the region and that putting the lid back on regional tensions required moving the GOB,s public discourse to the middle of the debate (i.e., making statements critical of the United States) in order to maintain its ability to act as a mediator. Biato thought the USG should understand well the context in which Brazil is trying to work and would know not to react to negative statements. Biato described Lula,s meeting with Uribe as positive and said that Lula was reticent to attend the upcoming meeting in Bariloche for fear it would stir up conflict again. As Uribe had agreed to go, however, Lula would attend.
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COMMENT: STABILITY, LACK OF TRUST AT ISSUE -----------------------
8. (C) Brazil,s foreign policy in South America is driven primarily by a desire for stability, as seen in its repeated assumption of a mediator role during crises and push for multilateral forums to facilitate communication and cooperation. Brasilia,s negative reaction to the announcement of the U.S.-Colombia DCA was, in the first instance, a response to the tensions the DCA ignited in the region and part of what Brasilia saw as a pragmatic effort to dissolve the strain.
9. (C) In tandem with this fundamental concern, less pragmatic elements within the Lula government and Brazilian media clearly have sought to exploit the DCA incident to boost Brazil,s leadership at the expense of the United States. At the same time, the incident played on deep-seeded and broad-based suspicions of U.S. intentions in South America, based on the Brazilian reading of past U.S. intervention in the region. Taken together with Brazilian concerns about the Fourth Fleet and long-standing worries about losing the Amazon, this latest incident has brought to the fore the low level of trust many Brazilians have in the United States, which is a key consideration as we seek to expand our bilateral partnership.