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Brazil's military regime spied on neighbors

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship spied on its Latin American neighbors and feared a conflict with Argentina, a Sao Paulo daily reported Sunday, citing declassified armed forces documents.

The disclosure by Estado de Sao Paulo came as Brazil is fuming over allegations of US electronic spying on its territory.

Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota plans to raise the allegations, based on leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, in a meeting with his US counterpart John Kerry in Brasilia Tuesday.

Estado said the documents from the Armed Forces General Staff showed that Brazilian military attaches and diplomats were tasked with collecting military and strategic secrets of Latin American countries.

The extensive collection notably focused on "the general structure of military ministries, their organization and operations, the composition of each armed force, commandos, troop strength and equipment, distribution and battle order, anti-aircraft defenses, underground installations."

The documents indicated that in the late 1960s, the military regime also kept close tabs on the movements of leftist guerrillas in Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela for fear their operations might spill over into Brazil.

Brazilian military intelligence reportedly had detailed knowledge of all the clashes between the rebels and armed forces of those countries.

Estado said Brazil did not supply arms to combat Bolivian guerrillas but provided counter-insurgency training to four Bolivian pilots in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

The daily said documents also showed that the Brazilian military planned for a possible conflict with neighboring Argentina, in a possible alliance with other Southern Cone countries such as Uruguay and Paraguay.

It cited transcripts of 1978 conversations by the top brass saying the fear of a Southern Cone war was caused not so much by the military strength of rival Argentina, but by the weakness of Brazilian troops.

"Perhaps the biggest value of this planning work has been to give us a panoramic vision of Brazil's military unpreparedness," vice-admiral Ibsen Camara, then deputy commander of the Armed Forces General Staff, was quoted as saying.

Last month, the daily O Globo reported that Washington eavesdropped on Brazilians' telephone conversations and emails.

It also claimed that a US spy base in Brasilia, part of a worldwide network of 16 such stations operated by the NSA, also intercepted foreign satellite transmissions.

Snowden, wanted by Washington on espionage and other charges, is holed up at an unknown location in Russia after Moscow granted him one year of asylum on August 1.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130811/brazils-military-regime-spied-neighbors