The government of Brazilian President Michel Temer has invited the United States to use the Alcântara missile launching base, in the Amazon region, to launch satellites as part of bilateral negotiations in the so-called “Brazil and United States Defense Industry Dialogue.”
Defense Minister Raul Jungmann made the announcement following a meeting with US officials at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil in the national capital of Brasília.
The final decision will be determined by Congress, as it remains one of the most sensitive issues in the bilateral relationship. The current law imposes safeguards on foreign technology on national soil.
Back in 2003, then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva vetoed a similar proposal by the Congress that sought to allow the U.S. military to use the facility.
During that time, people poured into the streets to celebrate Lula’s decision to defend Brazilian sovereignty and the Amazon, which alone represents 50 percent of Brazil’s national territory.
The facility was created in 1982 under the last of the US-backed military regimes led by dictator João Figueiredo, one of the generals who ruled the country following a 1964 coup.
The launching center is located three degrees south of the equator, which allows rockets to be more efficiently launched into space due to the rotation of the earth.
For its construction, an area of 52,000 hectares was expropriated, a process that displaced tens of thousands from native and black communities that entirely depended on agriculture. The base was part of Washington’s plans to have a military presence in the Amazon.
If passed in Congress, the law will allow the US to control the area and Brazilian authorities would not be able to monitor their activities.
Activists have raised concerns that the activity at the base would not be limited to just launching rockets, but could also include other military actions.