Cohen Praises Brazil's Stance Against International
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
BRASILIA, Jun. 5, 1998 Defense Secretary William Cohen wound up his five-day visit to South America May 27 in Brazil, where he praised leaders for their stance against nuclear weapons proliferation, terrorism and drug trafficking.
Shortly after arriving in Brazil's capital May 26, Cohen held talks with Gen. Benedict Bezerra Leonel, chairman of the Brazilian joint chiefs of staff, and other senior officers. He met later with President Fernando Cardoso.
A senior Defense Department official traveling with the secretary said Cohen and his Brazilian hosts discussed counterterrorism and counternarcotics. "Both sides also discussed the issues of chemical and biological weapons and agreed it was a growing concern to all countries," the official said.
"I came to Brazil to listen and to learn," the secretary said at a press conference in Brasilia on the morning before he returned to Washington. "This nation is the world's third largest democracy. The United States and Brazil are major trading partners, and our two nations enjoy excellent military-to-military ties." Brazil, he said, is one of the United States' most important bilateral partners.
Cohen said he was most grateful for Brazil's response to India's nuclear detonations, which violated an agreement signed between India and Brazil committing to nonproliferation. Brazil strongly condemned the action and joined the United States in urging Pakistan not to respond with weapons tests of its own.
"You have sent a strong signal that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is something that your country is committed against," he told the Brazilian government. The United States and Brazil are working closely to address nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international challenges in South America, Africa and elsewhere, "because they are emerging as the new challenges to the national security of our two democracies," he said.
Cohen also lauded South America's largest country for modernizing its military by establishing a civilian-led defense ministry. He pointed out the nation's stabilizing influence with neighboring countries.
The visits to Brazilia, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Santiago, Chile, were Cohen's first. Each stop gave the secretary the opportunity to strengthen U.S. relationships with those countries and discuss common areas of interest and concern. Chief among his concerns, he said, is the threat of biological weapons.
"We discussed the threat of biological weapons and what a very small amount of biological substance can do in the way of damage to individual countries and collectively to countries all over the world," Cohen said.
Before leaving Brasilia, Cohen visited with Marine guards and others at the U.S. Embassy here. He thanked the Marines for their service and presented them with DoD commemorative coins. He also joined Marine Gen. Charles Wilhelm, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command, in commending U.S. Ambassador Melvin Levitsky, who will leave the post this summer.