Defending the Amazon

    Defending the Amazon

    Cavalcanti is the author of three projects proposing a referendum,
    as the Constitution determines, to create three new states:
    Solimões, Tapajós, and Araguaia.
    By Iosif Landau

    Everyone in Brazil independent of political affiliation seems to be interested in the
    defense of the Amazon these days. With American troops training in neighboring Colombia
    fears of an invasion have increased. Villas-Boas Corrêa, a well-known political
    commentator for Rio’s daily Jornal do Brasil has raised the issue recently. In
    Congress, Mozarildo Cavalcanti, senator for the state of Roraima, also touched on the
    matter of a possible American invasion.

    Brazilian borders with Colombia are 1,700 km (1,062 miles) long, an area sparsely
    populated and with an insignificant Brazilian military presence. It is a wide open border
    where guerrillas, drug traffickers, weapon smugglers, and bio-pirates all come and go
    freely.

    Cavalcanti does not embrace the old idea of massive occupancy of the border by
    stimulating internal migration. Disorderly occupation by crowds of peasants ignorant of
    local cultures and habits is not something he accepts since past experience showed it to
    be predatory. He also has no illusion that it is possible to maintain the Amazon
    untouched. He believes, however, that the Amazon should be occupied according to
    well-prepared ecological projects that have shown viability and efficiency in the past.

    In his own state of Roraima, as well as in the stare of Amapá, self-sustaining
    projects were established with excellent results and were internationally recognized as
    such. Careful occupation does not destroy but protects forest reserves, teaches the
    senator.

    The senator also warns that the military should modify ancient concepts, abandoning
    their old colonial strategy that concentrates the defense of the country on sea borders as
    if to defend Brazil from foreign invasion by sea. While there is a concentration of 44,000
    military men in Rio, in the Brazilian Amazon, which occupies over two thirds of the
    country’s territory, there are only 22,000.

    Cavalcanti believes that the United States intervention in Colombia will not end soon.
    He says that Brazil has to accept the facts and protect its territory near seven bordering
    South American countries. The geopolitics of the Amazon must change, he argues, pointing
    that natives who live along the border feel more like Bolivians and Venezuelans than
    Brazilians,

    Among the senator’s solutions are the rearranging of the Brazilian territorial division
    in order to assure more efficient administration, and better territorial defense and
    geographical equilibrium of the country. Cavalcanti is the author of three projects
    proposing a referendum, as the Constitution determines, to create three new states:
    Solimões, on the west side of the Amazonas state; Tapajós, on the west side of the Pará
    State; and Araguaia on the north side of Mato Grosso state.

    Approved with a few changes by a special senate committee, the matter will be voted on
    next year in the Senate and then by the full Congress. The Fernando Henrique Cardoso
    administration likes the idea; the Ministry of Defense approves of it. Despite the odds in
    his favor, Cavalcanti is not overly optimistic. He says, "This is a long and
    difficult struggle, but this is the only way we will be able to prevent the risk of
    foreign interference in the region."

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