Brazil co-hosted the sixth South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC) in the city of Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte. SOUTHDEC, co-sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command, was created to discuss topics that affect the stability and security of Western Hemisphere nations. This edition, which was held in Brazil for the first time, covered current issues, such as natural disasters and transnational threats, which require a joint effort from participating countries. Diálogo spoke with Brazilian Air Force General Raul Botelho, chairman of the Brazilian Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff about this and other topics.
Diálogo: What are the greatest regional challenges that Southern Cone nations must overcome jointly with the United States?
Brazilian Air Force General Raul Botelho, chairman of the Brazilian Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff: We can highlight two extremely relevant challenges: humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and the fight against transnational threats. For instance, we currently handle the challenges, mechanisms, and regional response capabilities for the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, which provided lessons on sharing various initiatives and difficulties that countries face when dealing with this matter. With regard to transnational threats, transnational organized crime is one of the greatest threats to South America’s security and stability, specifically arms and drug trafficking.
Diálogo: Why is it important for Brazil to participate in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions?
Gen. Botelho: Participation in UN peacekeeping operations increases the training and insertion of Brazilian Armed Forces in international operations in support of our foreign policy. This type of mission promotes a greater visibility for Brazil in the group of nations, reaffirming its commitment to protecting peace and cooperation among people, and enabling the exchange of knowledge and experience with contingents from other countries.
Diálogo: Do you think that Brazil is a good military partner for its neighbors and for the United States? How can the military-to-military relationship be improved with partner nations?
Gen. Botelho: Yes, I think that Brazil is a good military partner, not only for its Latin American neighbors, but also for the United States and globally. In 2019 alone, more than a dozen bilateral cooperation agreements, memoranda of understanding, and declarations of intent between several countries have been or will be signed. We have about 15 similar documents still under review or negotiation, which will soon become concrete measures in the defense sector. The United States is a long-standing strategic partner. This partnership is becoming stronger every day, as demonstrated by mutual visits by leaders from both nations, signed cooperation agreements, Brazil’s increasing participation in significant roles at the U.S. Southern Command and, naturally, the fact that the U.S. House of Representatives has recently approved Brazil as a U.S. major non-NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] ally.
We are strengthening our growing friendship and cooperation ties, enabling regional interests on development and security issues to be reached. Regarding opportunities to improve the military-to-military relationship with partner nations, it is my understanding that the main obstacle to overcome is the different approach amongst countries regarding legislation on important aspects to promote greater military-to-military integration. There must be a clear understanding of the political reality of each country and respect for their sovereignties as a starting point toward building partnerships that aim for regional military integration in South America.
Diálogo: What is your priority as chairman of the Brazilian Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff?
Gen. Botelho: To develop a strategy that projects a modern concept of joint work, where defense capabilities are established by an appropriate method, guided by a common understanding of defense priorities, aligned with updated planning and doctrine, in order to face any potential possibilities. Additionally, to build a defense intelligence agency that encompasses all segments of intelligence to deliver reliable timely knowledge in support of the decision-making process and the creation and execution of military strategic planning.