Cohen to Visit South America
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 1999 Defense Secretary William S. Cohen will depart Washington Nov. 11 bound for Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
The secretary thinks it's important to strengthen democracy in these "freshly minted democracies," a senior defense official said at the Pentagon Nov. 9. Argentina became a democracy in 1983, Brazil in 1985 and Chile in 1990, he noted.
In Brazil, Cohen will meet with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Foreign Minister Luiz Felipe Lampreia and Defense Minister Elcio Alvarez. Cardoso swore in Alvarez, a former senator, in June, putting Brazil's armed forces under civilian control for the first time. Previously, the top military officers in the three services represented the military in the nation's cabinet.
In Argentina, Cohen will meet with President Carlos Saul Menem, President-elect Fernando de la Rua and Defense Minister Jorge Dominguez. "A major purpose of this trip is continuity," the official said. "As Argentina transitions to a new democratic administration, we want to make sure the super relationship we've built with them remains and moves forward in the interests of both our democracies."
In Chile, Cohen will meet with President Eduardo Frei and Defense Minister Edmund Perez Yoma. The secretary intends to discuss U.S.-Chilean Defense Consultative Committee accomplishments and efforts to institutionalize civilian control of the military.
Regional narco-trafficking and arms sales are not on Cohen's agenda, but could come up in his discussions with local leaders, the official said.
Cohen's last visit to these three South American countries in May 1998 focused on the role military and security forces play in supporting and defending democratic institutions, the defense official said. The Chilean and Argentinian defense ministers later visited Washington.
In November 1998, Cohen attended the third Defense Ministerial of the Americas, held in Cartagena, Colombia, where defense ministers from throughout the Western Hemisphere met to advance regional cooperation. The next ministerial is slated to be held in Brasilia, Brazil's capital, in October 2000.