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Eric Ehrmann

Eric Ehrmann

Posted: August 8, 2009 04:02 PM

Drug Wars: Brazil's Amazon The New Rio Grande

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Presidents Lula of Brazil and Bachelet of Chile have voiced concern that Washington's push for more bases in Colombia will drive armed conflict deeper into the rain forest. But global demand makes the drug trade too big to fail, credit markets are drained and narcodollars are the last mountain of wealth the United States and Russia can battle over to shape the world economic order. The roundup to corral drugs and cash moving over Brazil's rain forest is the perfect alibi for a couple of superpowers looking for defense driven economic growth to remain in the divide and conquer business in Latin America.

US president Barack Obama just told the world he reset Washington's relationship with the Kremlin. But Obama's sit down with prime minister Vladimir Putin saw him come away with little relating directly to Latin America. And the drive-by from two Russian nuclear attack subs off the US coast a few days ago shows that Obama's latest attempt to make the world forget the past didn't get by the former KGB boss.

Moscow has a new base of operations on the South American continent thanks to Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez, who is spending more on Russian military hardware than the US gives Colombia. Russian armed FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) units based in Venezuela and anti-Castro mercenaries who support Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe conduct cross-border operations to disrupt drugs and weapons shipments that are shooting the Monroe Doctrine full of holes.

In spite of a smooth, Harvard-turned image that matches up with what the Council on Foreign Relations likes to see in a Latin anti-drug crusader, Uribe's connections to the highest levels of Colombian drug business are deep and well known to the Defense Intelligence Agency, among others.

Just as the FBI has used organized crime figures like Whitey Bulger to track the underworld Venezuela's Chavez keeps his lines open to the drug business because it strengthens his position in the oil business. Hugo's pipelines don't get blown up by narco guerrillas as often as Uribe's do next door in Colombia. He even got high marks from Interpol in June when he deported Italian drug kingpin Salvatore Miceli. Interpol would be even happier if Chavez put the top Russian and Cuban drug traffickers on a plane home.

Brazil's public security directorate follows FARC and does not now view the organization as a threat. Itamaraty, the foreign ministry, maintains a relatively non-judgmental policy toward FARC, Iran and other revolutionary movements to avoid the more costly political risks of isolating them. This strategy leaves an opening for crunch time dialogue under conditions of mutual respect. And foreign minister Celso Amorim, a career diplomat who served other presidents, has a reputation for conducting balanced statecraft. This is one reason Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman recently told Lula he thinks Brazil is well qualified to handle negotiations in the Middle East.

But prospects that the Obama administration is pushing the drug war beyond US bases in Colombia toward a globalist quasi-nation in the Amazon are real and don't bode well for Brazil as it moves into a presidential election year. For this, Brazil can thank former US president Bill Clinton, who used his social network to globalize a Brazilian radar project originally developed to monitor unauthorized logging and cross border spraying of environmentally dangerous defoliants.

Known by the acronym SIVAM, the Amazon surveillance project has developed into a multi billion dollar drug war boondoggle funded by Washington. The project can track contraband shipments and force them and their proceeds into politically reliable channels but it does nothing to reduce demand for product, which Mexico's president Calderon says team Obama isn't doing a very good job of.

Mission creep associated with the big project could become an issue in Brazil's presidential vote and also places the armed forces in the difficult position of reconciling national sovereignty with Obama's new globalist policy objectives. SIVAM features major US defense contractors, military advisers and other international subcontractors ostensibly paid to assist Brazil in tracking aircraft and ground action suspected of carrying drugs, money and armaments.

Deployment of the project started before Lula took office and Brazil's federal police presented wiretap evidence indicating improper activity among government officials to steer the deal the way then US president Clinton wanted it to go. This radar system, which runs across Brazil's 2,000 mile northern tier, is a lot bigger than the one that operated at the Iran-Contra drug drop in Mena, Arkansas during Clinton's tenure as governor.

Jeffrey Garten, a former US army special forces officer in Thailand who served as a policy planner for Henry Kissinger and subsequently as a top commerce department official, has confirmed Clinton's role in the radar deal to the New York Times.

Brazilian public security officials will acknowledge that while the United States is by far the top consumer of illegal drugs moving from south to north, Brazil's drug use and street crime violence can be directly linked to American cultural exports. Gang culture, violent hip hop lyrics and music videos that pass themselves off as artistic expression provide the impetus for kids in Brazil's favelas to join American style gangs, sell drugs the way they see them sold on American TV, buy guns, and kill innocent citizens.

While Lula and Obama wear their soft power smiles for globalist photo ops, diplomacy between the two nations has dropped down to the von Clausewitz definition of war by other means. Washington is not accustomed to having an ascending economic power with a different culture and radically different approach to sustainable energy operating in the Americas. The Argentina where Aristotle Onassis made his fortune was running neck and neck with the United States until 1929 when it got knocked out of the game by the Wall Street Crash. And China is now Brazil's top trade partner, a spot Washington held since Herbert Hoover was in the White House.

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who was made a Wal-Mart board member for life by founder Sam Walton, warned Brazil of Washington's concern over the growing trade relationship with China. Her statement, politically incorrect from the globalist perspective, is unlikely to cause a dip in Chinese exports to Wal-Mart Brasil, which operates over 300 stores.

Brazil's growing strategic alliance with France, as outlined by leaders of both nations on HuffPo, can help offset Washington's efforts to make the Amazon a quasi-nation in the world economic order. The last thing president Lula and Brazilian democracy need is the United States on its northern border using the drug war to interfere in internal politics like it has done in the past with Mexico. If that happens, protecting Brazil's sovereignty and national identity are the first things politicians and military men will think about if called on to approve a constitutional amendment that would enable Lula to run for a third term.