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Agreement aids Brazil's weapons program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#344
21/12/1990
Article

(December 21, 1990) On 28 November, Presidents Collor de Mello of Brazil and Carlos Menem of Argentina signed an agreement for the creation of a Common System of Accountability and Control.

(344.3445) WISE Amsterdam - Within 45 days after signing (by 15 January 1991), both governments are to exchange complete descriptive documents reporting on their nuclear installations, with inventories of nuclear materials existing in both countries, while they start mutual inspections. The agreement has important dimensions of propaganda for both countries, and is especially important to Brazil's efforts to obtain a super-computer it wants to buy from IBM in the US.

According to Menem, "Brazilians and Argentinians don't need additional guarantees on the use of their nuclear technologies. But they have a responsibility to offer mechanisms of inspection which reassure the region and the world."

The agreement mentions mechanisms of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and was a key element for the decision of US President George Bush to give the green light for the sale of the supercomputer, which is being sought after by EMBRAER, the State Agency for Research Enterprise and Air Transport, which is under control of the Brazilian Air Force. Bush's decision was announced during his visit to Brazil on 3 December (a few days after the "agreement" of Collor and Menem) and ratified by the White House on 15 December. But that agreement, like the 1967 Tlatelolco Treaty which was to make Latin America a nuclear weapon free zone, may never be enforced. The Brazilian Congress may decide that, after all, only "internal safeguards", not international inspections, are acceptable. Meanwhile, the conclusions of the Brazilian Parliament Commission on Nuclear Issues, announced on 4 December, state that the so-called "nuclear parallel program" being operated illegally by the Brazilian military, should be legalized and legiti-mized with some kind of internal control. Brazil's ecology and pacifist movements are deeply disappointed with the parliament, which appears to be under the informal guidance of Brazil's nuclear lobby.

But the biggest recent success for Brazil's nuclear establishment is the agreement allowing for the sale of the supercomputer to EMBRAER, putting it nearer and nearer into the hands of the Brazilian Air Force. The supercomputer can be used to simulate nuclear tests with A-bombs with the advantage of not being detected seismically by any other country, thus making the old 320 meters deep hole of Cachimbo Mountain Range (recently 'closed' by Collor -- see WISE News Communique 341.3407) not only outdated, but unnecessary. The Uniao Protetora do Ambiente Natural (UPAN, or the Union for Natural Environment Protection), along with other Brazilian ecological groups, still want the US government to stop the sale.

Of course, Washington is well aware of the close links between military and industry, and especially the Brazilian Air Force and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But the US needs Brazilian diplomatic support and is afraid of Brazilian opposition in the Gulf crisis. As a concession, it promised to sell the super-computer -- a top priority for the Brazilian government now.

Source and contact: Carlos C. Aveline, UPAN, C.P. 189, 93001 Sao Leopoldo, RS, Brazil, tel: +55-512-92-7933, fax: +55-512-92-6617.