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.
“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.
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.
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.