Thursday, May 13, 2010
Maturing Brazilian Defense Attitudes Revealed in new film "National Secuirity"
I am down in Brazi and wanted to alert you to a fantastic new film released here earlier this week called "Seguranca Nacional". In my time at the State Deaprtment's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), I was instrumental in getting the US financing of $1.4 billion for the Brazilian Amazon Surveillance System (SIVAM) project approved by the Secretary of State in 1994, The contract went to Raytheon and not a French firm that was competing. SIVAM was actually originally an environmental project, the big new Brazilian government idea to come out of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 which Brazil hosted to relieve international pressure on its lack of protection of the Amazon rain forest. However, it had much broader law enforcement capabilities, especially in the area of counter-narcotics.
Well, ``National Security`` is all about how the success of the SIVAM and Brazil's shoot down policy in stopping Colombian drug flights results in a reaction from a big drug kingpin who threatens Brazil with terrorism. The story is about how the Brazilian government responds, the workings of the SIVAM system, involvement of the Brazilian CIA (ABIN) in fighting terrorism. The story has its own James Bond type Brazilian agent, who is very good looking and skilled at getting information and tracking down bad guys and getting the girl. In the story also, the President of Brazil is Milton Goncalves, a well known black actor--an obvious reference to the Obama effect. The head of the ABIN is a woman. The story is drawn from many US and British spy thrillers with shades of "Clear and Present Danger." It makes a very good representation of Brazilian intelligence, special forces and air force and is quite inspiring and patriotic. Lots of big Brazilian flags flying over Brasilia and some good shots of Florianopolis, one of my favorite cities here. Most important, however, is that it clearly defines narco-trafficking as a major issue of national defense and a treat to the nation's security and sovereignty. The US is never mentioned. Colombian traffickers and their Brazilian allies are made out to be the scum of the earth. If Brazilians pick up this message, that would be a great leap forward.
My only disappointment is that even in Rio, the film seems to be showing mostly in the poorer Zona Norte and suburbs. I had to go out to a shopping mall in the fast-growing Barra da Tijuca section of Rio to catch a 1 pm showing at which I was one of maybe four viewers, given the hour. So I am not sure the film will catch on, but hope so. If it represents a new maturity on the part of Brazilian opinion about Brazil's role in fighting global threats, that would be an important advance, getting away from the idea that the wars on drugs and terrorism are just American issues or even inventions of no concern to a maturing rising power like Brazil.