Brazil proposes Latin American alliance

In your article “Brazil proposes Latin American alliance,” (Plugged in, June 5) you claim that the absence of the United States from the new South American “military planning” body is significant as relations worsen between President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the Bush administration. However, you do not mention the duplicitous response the White House originally made when the initiative was announced. In April, Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim traveled to several South American capitals, where he outlined the military organization’s proposed design to local leaders.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ostensibly was welcoming the creation of the new hemispheric group at the same time that an executive order revived the 4th Fleet (inactive since World War II) to patrol Latin American waters, a step presumably motivated in part by Brazil’s proposed South American Security Council.

The White House lauded the new regional body, which was intended to secure Brazil’s borders through military coordination with other continental nations, bolster area arms sales and form unilateral humanitarian missions should the need arise. What the new arrangement was not meant to do was form a serious alliance with Venezuela that would threaten U.S. interests or security.

The Bush administration, ignorant of the realities of South America, was quick to regress to gunboat diplomacy crudely reminiscent of the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine. By the end of May, under increasing criticism for the undisguised military gesture involving the 4th Fleet, Miss Rice tried to salvage her bellicose image in Brazil by assuring the administration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that the 4th Fleet’s return was not a menacing gesture.