Brazil to pur­sue satel­lite, nuke sub projects: Min­is­ter

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Am­bi­tious projects such as satel­lites that could bring the in­ter­net to the re­mote Ama­zon and con­struc­tion of Brazil’s first nu­clear sub­ma­rine will pro­ceed de­spite a deep eco­nomic down­turn, the de­fense min­is­ter told AFP. Raul Jung­mann said he will be in France this Thurs­day to take de­liv­ery of the first of three com­mu­ni­ca­tions and de­fense satel­lites built by France’s Thales and due for launch­ing on March 21 next year. The nearly six tonne, 2.1 bil­lion reais ($617 mil­lion) satel­lite is at the core of a mod­ern­iza­tion of Brazil’s mil­i­tary that Jung­mann said will still take hits dur­ing planned govern­ment aus­ter­ity cuts.

“We know there’s go­ing to be a new fis­cal pol­icy with a spend­ing ceil­ing. We know we’ll have to cut back,” he said in an in­ter­view in Brasilia. How­ever, some projects “are al­ready at an ad­vanced stage and can­not be stopped, like the nu­clear sub­ma­rine or the four con­ven­tional sub­marines that are also be­ing de­vel­oped in France,” he said. “Three of them are al­ready be­ing built.”

Swedish Gripen war planes whose pay­ment sched­ule he said “is suf­fi­ciently flex­i­ble” will also sur­vive the cuts. But with Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer push­ing an aus­ter­ity strat­egy through Congress, start­ing with a pro­posed 20-year freeze on bud­get in­creases, “there are other things we need to re­view,” he said.

The satel­lite pro­gram re­mains a top pri­or­ity, de­scribed by the min­is­ter as a chance for Brazil “to achieve a tech­no­log­i­cal stan­dard that we don’t have to­day.” Sta­tioned over Ecuador, the net­work will cover all of South Amer­ica, the south­ern At­lantic and the west coast of Africa, “what we call Brazil’s strate­gic sphere,” Jung­mann said. The net­work will ex­pand broad­band cov­er­age through­out Brazil, “which is an enor­mous ad­vance for so­ci­ety. It will al­low it to reach re­mote places, the Ama­zon for ex­am­ple,” the min­is­ter added.

The tele­coms satel­lites will also bring new se­cu­rity for Brazil by putting all govern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions un­der the coun­try’s con­trol and strength­en­ing mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions, he said.

Big army, no en­emy

Brazil main­tains one of the largest mil­i­taries in the Amer­i­cas, partly to pa­trol its huge bor­ders, which in­clude 4,660 miles (7,500 kilo­me­ters) of coast­line. Jung­mann said the mil­i­tary is con­cerned by the prox­im­ity of “ma­jor drug pro­duc­ers and that Brazil, es­pe­cially in ur­ban cen­ters, has un­for­tu­nately turned into a drug con­sumer. An in­te­grated mar­ket has de­vel­oped both for drugs and weapons.”

Although Brazil is not in­volved in any ac­tive con­flicts abroad, it has used its mil­i­tary to pro­ject in­flu­ence, in­clud­ing with a ma­jor peace­keep­ing mis­sion to Haiti. The mil­i­tary has also been called on to sup­port out­gunned po­lice in bat­tles with drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro. Mem­bers of the armed forces were also de­ployed around the coun­try ear­lier this year to as­sist in a cam­paign against mos­qui­toes car­ry­ing the Zika virus.

The mil­i­tary ruled Brazil dur­ing a dic­ta­tor­ship from 1964 to 1985. How­ever, its pow­ers have since been curbed and now-at a time the coun­try is be­ing shaken by its worst re­ces­sion in decades and a cas­cade of cor­rup­tion scan­dals is widely seen as the coun­try’s most trusted in­sti­tu­tion. — AFP

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