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The Brazilian Cables: US Upset Brazil Puts Interests of Activists Ahead of Counterterrorism

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Former President Lula of Brazil
(Image by Marlon Dutra)
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br />Former President Lula of Brazil by Marlon Dutra

Cables from Brazil released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States has been pushing Brazil to take the threat of terrorism more seriously and institutionalize counterterrorism into their legal system. They reveal the U.S. has attempted to have Guantanamo detainees resettled in Brazil but has had no success and that sometimes law enforcement. And, they demonstrate that Brazil may be hesitant to charge suspects with crimes that amount to terrorism because it might become a playground for fighting the "war on terror."

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A cable sent on May 24, 2005, reads, the Government of Brazil (GOB) "still contends that it cannot accept Guantanamo migrants because it is illegal to designate someone not on Brazilian soil a refugee." When a US diplomat tries to convince Brazil to take Cuban refugees at Guantanamo, Brazilian officials maintains that due to Brazilian legislation no migrants could be accepted from Guantanamo.

An "action cable" details a requested to resettle detainees at Guantanamo, specifically Uighurs. Marcelo Bohlke at Brazil's Ministry of External Relations United Nations Division responds to the request with a demand for an explanation on why "Uighurs are not eligible for refugee status or resettlement" since they could not be resettled to Brazil unless designated as refugees.

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A representative from UN's refugee agency, UNHCR Luis Varese, explains the reason for Brazil's position:

...refugee status in Brazil is usually granted after the refugee has been recognized by the host country (in this case, the U.S.). According to Varese, the GOB and CONARE believe that the migrants at Guantanamo Bay do not fit into this category because the USG has not "formally recognized" them as refugees. If they were formally recognized, CONARE believes, the USG would allow them to resettle in the U.S. so resettlement would not be an issue. Varese told PolOff that the "formal recognition" issue caused the GOB to reject the USG's proposal in 2003... [emphasis added]

The cable demonstrates that Brazil has a respect for the principles of the National Commission on Refugees (CONARE) and will not abandon them no matter how much pressure the US applies.

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Pressure on increasing counterterrorism measures, especially implementing legal means for targeting terrorists, is met with great pushback. As one cable reveals, in November of 2007, the Presidency's Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI), which had been working for years on counterterrorism, began to downplay the importance of passing such legislation. In the face of criticism from people like the Brazilian bar association president Cezar Britto, who characterized the legislation as a "thinly veiled move to criminalize the actions of social movements and those fighting for equality," Brazilian political leaders abandoned the initiative. President Lula's chief of staff "quashed the proposed legislation" that many believed could be used against activists and advocacy groups and political leaders determined it was "impossible to reach consensus within the government on how to define terrorism."

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com

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