Brazil and Colombia in Joint Effort to Fight FARC and Drugs

Brazil-Bolivia border Brazil and Colombia will be signing this weekend a defense agreement by which the two South American countries will share military information, technology, training, intelligence, weapons procurement and joint exercises. The document should be signed when Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrives for two-day talks with his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe.

The initiative among other things would facilitate air and land joint surveillance of the mostly lawless 1,000 miles shared Amazon border, a transit zone and haven for drug traffickers, guerrilla groups, smugglers, mining and other illegal activities.

The visit is also interpreted as a clear message of support for Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and the efforts of his elected government to end four decades of insurgency, which threatens the region.

Colombia's main rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, is known to regularly cross into Brazil to smuggle cocaine for weapons and equipment for its ongoing fight with Colombian military.

Calls for regional security cooperation took on new urgency after Colombia last March first crossed into Ecuador in hot pursuit of a senior FARC commander which was killed together with several other members of the group. The attack delivered two laptops with valuable information on FARC and their network of contacts and financial support.

But Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez immediately reacted in support of Ecuador by ordering troops to the border. An emergency session of the Rio Group in Dominica Republic helped to defuse the situation and Brazil pushed forward the idea of a South American Defense Council. However President Uribe refused to join, saying Colombia couldn't trust all of its neighbors.

But Brazil insisted because Lula is interested in closer ties with Uribe to counter the regional influence president Chavez has gained with Venezuela's oil wealth. In this line of action Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim and the big promoter of the regional Defense Council warned on April that any FARC insurgents crossing into Brazil would be met with gunfire.

Lula this weekend will be next to Uribe during the commemoration of Colombia's July 20 Independence Day in Leticia, along the Amazon border. President Alan Garcia of Peru, Colombia's closest regional ally, and with budding insurgency problems of his own, will also be around for the event.

Brazil is also looking to boost arms sales and Colombia so far has proven an excellent client. Colombia in 2006 spent US$ 240 million in the purchase of 25 Super Tucano attack planes from Embraer SA, Brazil's main aircraft manufacturer. The low flying Super Tucano planes, ideal for jungle strafing, led the bombing campaign in Ecuador.




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