Last week, U.S. and Brazilian officials signed a defense pact that will significantly enhance bilateral military ties. “This agreement will lead to a deepening of U.S.-Brazil defense cooperation at all levels,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared. While the agreement does not explicitly discuss U.S. access to Brazilian bases, it does mention naval visits. I would not be surprised if it eventually led to some form of U.S. military presence in Brazil.
Why do I bring this up? Well, thus far, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez and his populist allies have been utterly silent about the U.S.-Brazil accord. No angry criticisms of U.S. militarism or imperialism. No fierce condemnations of Brazilian president Lula da Silva. No ominous statements about “the winds of war.” Last year, however, Chávez and friends flew into a belligerent rage when the U.S. signed a defense pact with Colombia. The Venezuelan leader bellowed that “Colombia runs the risk of being isolated in this continent,” warning that the U.S.-Colombia military arrangement “could turn into a tragedy.” Even Lula said that “an American base in Colombia doesn’t please me,” and he called President Obama to voice his concerns.
Granted, the deal with Bogotá gave American military forces direct access to bases in Colombia—a country that relies heavily on U.S. support in its fight against narco-terrorism—whereas the deal with Brasília did not go that far. Still, the quiet acceptance of the U.S.-Brazil agreement by Chávez and his leftist pals highlights their hypocrisy about the United States. (A further illustration of that hypocrisy: Even as Chávez continues to denounce American-style capitalism, his oil minister is urging U.S. companies to invest in Venezuela.)
Jaime Daremblum is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.