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By Nestor Bailly, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – President Dilma Rousseff, in one of her first international policy moves, pushed regional solidarity to the forefront when the HMS Clyde, a type 42 destroyer in the Falklands Patrol Force of the UK Royal Navy, was denied port in Rio de Janeiro last week.

HMS Clyde, photo from the Royal Navy.

“We can confirm that HMS Clyde had planned to make a routine port stop in Rio de Janeiro in early January. Brazil did not grant diplomatic clearance this time,” said a spokesman for the UK Foreign Office. “We respect Brazil’s right to make such a decision. We have a close relationship with Brazil. The UK-Brazil defense cooperation treaty signed last September is a good example of our current strong links.”

This was the first time a UK naval vessel was denied access to a Brazilian port. Relations between the UK and Brazilian navies have been traditionally strong, and as recently as September the HMS Ocean made a visit to Rio. During that time the UK Minister for International Security Strategy, Gerald Howarth, signed a defense cooperation treaty with Brazilian navy chief Admiral Moura Neto.

Howarth heralded the UK and Brazil as “old and trusted friends” that would grow closer with the signing of the treaty, which marked a “new dawn” to their relationship. This was illustrated by UK Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable’s week-long visit to Brazil in September as well.

Brazilian Navy commander, Júlio Soares de Moura Neto
Brazilian Navy commander, Júlio Soares de Moura Neto, photo by Roosewelt Pinheiro/ABr.

However, last week’s events proved Brazil’s allegiances will remain regional, the denial was a clear overture to Argentina in its long-standing dispute with the UK over the Falklands/Malvinas islands.

Argentina’s leadership was reported to be ‘satisfied’ with the denial, since it is a part of an overall strategy to isolate the Falklands/Malvinas islands. Many South American nations support Argentina’s claim to the islands.

Uruguay has twice denied UK ships, most recently last September with the HMS Gloucester. In February of 2010, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addressed the British monarch on his regular television show, telling the Queen that “the time for empires is over.”

Brazil’s latest action in the Falklands/Malvinas islands drama has been seen by many as Rousseff’s attempt to boost her leftist credibility with the PT party by playing the ‘anti-colonial’ card.

The Falklands/Malvinas Islands, image from the Argentine Air Force.

At the same time as President Chavez’s remarks to the British crown, then-president Lula expressed solidarity with Argentina over the islands, pressing for the UN to resolve the issue.

Rousseff apparently wants to improve relations with the Argentinians before traveling to Buenos Aires on her first international visit next month.

Recent British military exercises around the islands have provoked formal criticism by Mercosur, an economic and political agreement between ten South American nations. Argentina protested vehemently, calling the exercises and recent oil prospecting by UK companies a violation of “provisional understandings” between the two nations over the islands.

The Cylde, which is armed with a 30mm main gun, two mini guns and various light machine guns, a helipad and holds a crew of 36. Permanently based in the South Atlantic, it was involved in the rescue of a British family nearly 1,000 miles east of the Falklands/Malvinas islands last spring.

After being denied port in Rio, the HMS Clyde steamed to Chile where the UK navy still has a warm reception since the Falklands war in 1982, when Chile sided with the UK.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. There are Brazilians who side with Argentina in this dispute, but forget that its claim to the Falklands is not (quite) as strong as its claim to all of Rio Grande do Sul, most of Santa Catarina and the West of Paraná, all of which were originally part of the Vice Regency of the River Plate and west of the Line of Tordesilhas (look it up). Officially, Argentina has never withdrawn its claim to these sizeable chunks of Brazilian territory.
    Do most Brazilians even remember that, during the military dictatorship in both countries, 40 years ago, 2/3 of Brazilian military might was deployed along the border with Argentina? No, they don’t, and let’s hope nobody wakes them up!

  2. I rather take the side of the Falklands people, what they want? They are the ones who should decide.

    However I find pitiful our president pulling the anti-colonial card well in the 21st century.

    If war would break would she side to Argentina? Is she insane bring this kind of dispute to Brazilian soil. She has a job, she doesn’t own the country.

    Argh! No Maradona for me thanks. haha

    Tordesilhas treat was way back.

    Although about the army in the dictatorship, remember we did not get those news at the time, well I was a child anyway and censorship had buried most of that history even after the dictators were gone.

  3. I thought the issue of the Falklands was dead. I thought that they weren’t really an issue–and that the Falklands War was just an excuse of a war to distract Argentinians from a dictatorship ruling over a weak economy. I guess not.

  4. HMS Clyde is not a type 42 destroyer, it’s a river class patrol vessel used in fisheries protection. Well done Brazil that’ll teach em to manage their fisheries!

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