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Brazil Takes Control of Western Hemisphere Military Council

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2006 – The Brazilian military today assumed leadership of the Inter-American Defense Board, the military advisory board to the Organization of American States.

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Brazilian Brig. Gen. Jorge Armando Ribeiro (right), incoming chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber, outgoing chairman of the IADB, stand at attention during the IADB transfer of authority ceremony in Washington, D.C., July 20. Courtesy photo
  

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In a ceremony at OAS headquarters here, Brazilian Brig. Gen. Jorge Armando Ribeiro took over the IADB chairman position from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber, who held the position for two years. Armando is the first elected chairman of the board, which has been chaired by U.S. general officers for 64 years.

In March, the OAS, the premiere political organization for the Western hemisphere, decided to officially recognize the IADB as part of its organization, making it subject to OAS statutes. One statute says that all senior leadership positions must be elected from the member nations, so the U.S. gave up its claim on the IADB chairman position and opened the position up to election, Huber told American Forces Press Service.

The elections were energetic, with many of the IADB member nations participating, Huber said. He said he was not surprised that Armando was overwhelmingly elected, because he is highly respected among the members.

"I have full faith and confidence that General Armando currently has all the skills and all the knowledge to improve and enhance the effectiveness of the Inter-American Defense Board," Huber said.

Huber and Armando, in separate interviews, both acknowledged the historical significance of Brazil taking over the chairman position, since the IADB was originally formed in Rio de Janeiro in 1942 at a meeting of foreign ministers.

"At this other historical moment for the board, Brazil also thought that it should be part of it," Armando said through a translator.

Today's ceremony was presided over by Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the OAS. It was appropriate for Insulza to preside over the ceremony because it underscores the new, historic relationship between the OAS, a political organization, and the IADB, a military organization, Huber said.

"We once again have the very visible, very conscious reinforcement of the critical theme that within democracies, militaries are subordinate to civil authority," he said. "It's a tremendously powerful and important message to continually reinforce."

Huber noted that in his two years at the IADB, the number of delegates has increased from 18 to 24. Since the OAS decision to incorporate the IADB, three nations have expressed interest in joining the IADB, and Spain has become the board's first international observer, he added.

More nations are participating in the IADB because they see the value of the organization's opinion on defense matters, Huber said. "They want to know what the military leaders think, and they want to obtain the technical advice from the military experts," he said. "The more people who are involved, the better -- the more we can learn, the more we can share our experiences, the more we can comprehend the issues and comprehend why we think differently."

Until now, Huber has been "dual-hatted" as the IADB chairman and president of the Inter-American Defense College, which is located at Fort McNair here and is the senior military academic institution for the Western hemisphere. He will remain in the president position until summer 2007, when he goes to his next assignment, he said.

The international experience of working within the IADB and OAS is invaluable for military officers, Huber said. Military leaders need to understand diplomacy and the importance of team building among international partners, because the world's militaries are moving to a combined future, he said.

"I do not think the U.S. military will ever go anywhere or do anything by themselves," he said. "We will be joint; we will be combined; we will be working in coalitions; we will have international partners; we will be faced with different cultural perspectives; we will be working in different languages -- that's the reality, to me, of all our interactions."

Huber said that he is glad other countries will now have a chance to participate in the board's leadership, gaining valuable diplomatic and cultural experiences.

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Related Sites:
Inter-American Defense Board
Organization of American States
Inter-American Defense College

Related Articles:
U.S. Relinquishes Leadership of Western Hemisphere Military Council


Click photo for screen-resolution imageJose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, passes the Inter-American Defense Board flag to Brazilian Brig. Gen. Jorge Armando Ribeiro at the IADB transfer of authority ceremony in Washington, D.C., July 20. Courtesy photo   
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