Nelson Jobim, Brazil's Minister of Defense, announced he will be visiting neighboring countries to promote the Brazilian initiative for a South American Defense Council. Addressing the Defense and Foreign Affairs committees of the Brazilian Congress Jobim said he wiil be traveling this Monday, April 13, to Venezuela, Surinam and Guyana the first leg of the regional tour.
Later on Minister Jobim is planning to meet with officials from Colombia, Peru and Ecuador and sometime in the second half of the year he would be traveling to meet with the governments of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia.
Brazil, South America's largest country has borders with all the continent's countries with the exception of Chile and Ecuador.
"The purpose of these visits is to draft a mid term or possibly long term South American defense identity so that we can have a strong, united continent," said Jobim to members of the two congressional committees.
The South American Defense Council should help to coordinate joint military exercises among the different member countries and could also include the collective participation in United Nations peace operations.
"Later on we could even consider the integration of the defense industries and procurement of the region," Jobim pointed out.
However he emphasized that the council was not a plan to face a common enemy of the region, and therefore it will not be a structure in the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was created in the context of the Cold War and which brings together defense structures from North America and Europe.
Mr. Jobim was also asked about the recent Colombian-Ecuadorian conflict and the possibility that the Colombian rebel FARC group could make incursions or look for havens in the neighboring Brazilian territory.
"We're prepared for that alternative and it's plain clear and they know it that we will receive them with the full fire power of our forces specifically deployed in the area in the event of such a scenario," said Jobim.
The Defense minister also revealed that Brazil has deployed over 28.000 troops along the "hot" borders in the Amazon region where the country not only faces the challenge of foreign guerrilla groups, but also the drug cartels' and "poachers' organizations" who are interested in the rich resources of the vast Amazon rain forest area.