to Say 'No, Thanks' to US
President Luiz In¶cio Lula da Silva will veto a proposal
being discussed in Congress that would allow the US military to use
the Alcântara missile launching base located in the Amazon.
According to some, with this accord, Brazilians would lose
sovereignty over their territory and get very little in return.
Dozens of entities
organized a rally on May 12 in the nation's capital of Brasília
to commemorate the veto of a project which would have permitted the US
military to use the Alcântara missile launching base located in
the Amazon. The Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, the Minister
of Defense, José Viegas Filho, and the Minister of Science and
Technology, Roberto Amaral, recommended to President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva that he veto the proposal which was being discussed in Congress.
It is almost certain that President Lula will accept the recommendation.
The objective of the
rally was to bring together people from the social movements to recognize
this important victory of the Brazilian people. Last year, various entities
sponsored an unofficial plebiscite on the base proposal to which Brazilians
gave a resounding "No." Organizers of the act also wanted to
recognize how the veto is also a victory for "quilombo"
communities. (Quilombos are communities of descendants of runaway
slaves. Had the accord been approved, more of these people living in these
communities would have been forced off their lands).
The debate over Alcântara
once again drew attention to the importance of the Amazon, which alone
represents 50 percent of the national territory. Some in the debate say
that this immense green space, which is currently sparsely inhabited,
is at the mercy of foreign powers, especially that of the United States.
The US has set up 20 military bases, which nearly encircle the Amazon.
Alcântara would have completed US domination of the area.
is property of the Brazilian Air Force, which planned and constructed
the base in 1982. It is located three degrees south of the equator, a
locale which, due to the rotation of the earth, allows rockets to be more
efficiently launched into space. Scientist estimate that rockets launched
from the site spend 30 percent less in fuel and can carry a bigger payload.
It is estimated that
over the next four years, the telecommunication, weather and military
industries will spend US$ 45 billion sending rockets and missiles into
space. Had the agreement been made, Brazil would have benefited very little
from this billion dollar industry. Additionally, it would have had no
control over what could be launched from the base. The terms of the accord
stipulated that Brazilians could only enter the area with US approval
and the base could not be subject to inspection from Brazilian authorities
or any other outside power.
In 1982 the Brazilian
government created the Alcântara Rocket Launch Center (CLA) in the
municipality of Alcântara, state of Maranhão. and expropriated
an area of 52,000 hectares. Five hundred families were affected, the majority
descendants of escaped slave communities (quilombos) who lived
on fishing and subsistence agriculture. Those families were moved to seven
villages and granted 15-hectare lots, far from fishing access. In 1990,
the Collor government increased the size of the base by expropriating
an additional 10,000 hectares, giving the CLA a total of 62,000 hectares.
In October 2000, the
Cardoso government signed an agreement with the U.S. government to cede
the base or, in other words, the 62,000 hectares of land. Under the accord,
the United States would control the area and Brazilian authorities would
not even be able to monitor it. In practice, the CLA would be a U.S. military
Analysts warn that
the real objective of the U.S. government is not just to launch rockets,
but to use nuclear warheads, as a way to maintain military control of
the Amazon. The geopolitical strategy of the United States in the Amazon
region already includes military bases in Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia,
which can benefit from intelligence provided by the Amazon Intelligence
System, or SIVAM, which was set up by U.S. corporations. Consequently,
what was at stake is the sovereignty of the Amazon and the control of
its riches, its biodiversity and water resources.
In 2001, the agreement
was evaluated by the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Chamber of
Deputies. The member reporting on the agreement, PT Deputy Waldir Pires
of the state of Bahia, produced a document, approved by consensus, which
rejected it and proposed changes that would guarantee Brazilian sovereignty
over the area. The accord was then evaluated by the Committee on Science
and Technology. The member in charge of reporting on the agreement, PFL
Deputy Jose Rocha of Pará, produced an evaluation in favor of the
original agreement. That document was approved by the Committee.
By the Brazilian Constitution,
all international agreements must be approved by Congress. The Brazilian
government sent the agreement to Congress in 2002 for approval.
de Fato and Adital
was supplied by Sejup, which has its own Internet site: