Robert’s Latin America Round-Up

03.10.11

Categorie: Americas, Haiti, Latin America, Latin America Round-Up, Robert Beckhusen |
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Brazilian Mirage 2000s. Photo via Defense Industry Daily.

Brazilian Mirage 2000s. Photo via Defense Industry Daily.

by ROBERT BECKHUSEN

Haiti
Haitian President Michel Martelly is taking steps to rebuild Haiti’s military, more than 15 years after the armed forces were first disbanded, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press. The plan aims for “an initial force of 3,500 soldiers” directed at patrolling the country’s border with the Dominican Republic, maintaining security “during times of crisis” and providing jobs for young people, reports the AP. Over time, the new $95-million National Council of Defense and Security could replace United Nations troops as they withdraw beginning next year. The first 500 soldiers of the initial force are expected to be recruited over the next two months.

The question whether Haiti should have a military is controversial. Human rights groups say the military is a potential threat to human rights; while critics within the government point to high costs necessitating further aid from abroad, and Haiti’s lack of foreign threats. Supporters see the military as a symbol of national pride, and have called for the future military to be professionalized. The military was disbanded in 1995 by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted once in 1991 by the military and again by former soldiers in 2004. The plan calls for $15 million in funds to compensate former soldiers.

Brazil
Brazilian military aircraft is deteriorating rapidly, and without “urgent” fighter purchases the country could be without “adequate combat aircraft” to patrol the Amazon and border regions, Defense Minister Celso Amorim said Thursday. “By the end of 2013, none of the 12 Mirage (aircraft) at the Anapolis air base will be in full flying condition. This is something that is really urgent, very important,” Amorim said.

Brazil is currently weighing a multi-billion dollar fighter contract between the French Rafale, Swedish Gripen NG and the U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet. Which country gets the deal, however, is up in the air. Analysts took a potential deal with France nearly for granted during the administration of former President Lula da Silva, but the decision was delayed beyond Lula’s presidency to the administration of President Dilma Rousseff, who is seen as more partial to the F/A-18 and for strengthening U.S.-Brazilian ties more broadly. But until Amorim’s call for urgency this week, the earliest sign of a deal was not expected until 2012. Perhaps it could be sooner.

I asked the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., to comment on the U.S.-Brazilian defense relationship on Sept. 24 at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas. He described the relationship as “pretty strong” with Brazilian officials “very interested in the U.S. experience with jointness.” He also said:

One of the interesting things about President Lula’s time in office is that he decided to rehabilitate the military as an institution, recapitalize, give it new weapon systems and give it a voice in a larger national security dialogue; which is absolutely essential given the size of Brazil and its borders and what it needs to protect. But also when you look to the south into the Atlantic, at the pre-salt oil and gas reserves that Brazil has, it right now doesn’t have the strategic abilities to go out and protect those reserves. And so Brazil is building up a military which is 21st century in terms of its capabilities of national defense but which also can play a role internationally through peacekeeping operations.

The ambassador did not explicitly reference the U.S. fighter bid.

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