Brazil president’s suggestion of a US base runs afoul of its military

Brazil president’s suggestion of a US base runs afoul of its military

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, right, pictured with Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, takes over the ministerial team at Planalto Palace in the capital, Brasilia, on Jan. 1. (Roque de Sá/Agência Senado)

WASHINGTON — A suggestion from Brazil’s new president that the United States build a military base within that country has generated opposition from that nation’s armed services.

President Jair Bolsonaro said in an interview last week that he would be open to the U.S. operating a military facility in Brazil, primarily as a check against adventurism and threats from Venezuela and to counter Russian influence in that nation.

According to news reports, Brazil Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo said Bolsonaro would discuss the base offer with President Donald Trump when he visits Washington, now scheduled for March.

Regional media calls Bolsonaro the “Tropical Trump” for his affinity for the U.S. president and their similar campaign styles and rhetoric

The Pentagon has declined comment on several occasions regarding a potential base in Brazil.

Backlash from some cabinet members and Brazil’s defense ministry appear to have staunched the idea Wednesday.

“This needs to be carefully evaluated. I don’t see what the reason is for such a base,” Brazil Defense Minister General Fernando Azevedo e Silva told Reuters. He said he had not discussed the possible base with Bolosonaro.

The U.S. had military bases in Brazil during World War II but not since.

During that conflict, Brazil supported construction and enlargement of air bases in northern and northeastern Brazil and permitted the U.S. Navy to use Brazilian ports in its anti-submarine campaign. The air bases became a pivotal link for planes heading to Africa and the Mediterranean.

While the U.S. has not sought a base in Brazil, the Pentagon was working to enhance the military-to-military relationship with the country.

During a trip to Brazil in August, then Defense Secretary James Mattis said he intended to “reenergize” the U.S. defense relationship with Brazil.

Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks at the Escola Superior de Guerra, Brazil’s war college, in Rio de Janeiro, on Aug. 14, 2018. (DoD photo)

“In the broader military relationship, we also see future opportunities for advanced research with Brazil, particularly in space,” Mattis said then. “We choose Brazil not because it lies along the equator, a happy accident of geography, but because we want to work with Brazilians, our hemispheric neighbors — whose values we share politically, as well as your impressive technological orientation.

Mattis praised Brazil’s courage in past wars, being one of the first western hemisphere nations to declare war on the Axis Powers and being the first South American country to send an expeditionary force to Europe.

“Whenever we move our U.S.-Brazil relationship, it will be forward, not backward,” Mattis said then.

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