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Jose Alencar, Brazil VP, Says Country Should Build Nuclear Arms

September 25th, 2009
Brazil's vice president Jose Alencar

Brazil's vice president Jose Alencar

Brazil’s vice president says in an interview published Friday that his country should develop nuclear weapons. Other officials stressed that his comments were not government policy.

Jose Alencar, who also served as defense minister from 2004 to 2006, said in an interview with journalists from several Brazilian news media that his country does not have a program to develop nuclear weapons, but should: “We have to advance on that.”

“The nuclear weapon, used as an instrument of deterrence, is of great importance for a country that has 15,000 kilometers of border to the west and a territorial sea” where oil reserves have been found, Alencar said.

Alencar aide Adriano Silva confirmed the comments published by newspapers including O Globo and O Estado de Sao Paulo. But he said they were personal opinions and not a position of the government.

Brazil’s constitution prohibits nuclear weapons.

A spokesman for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also insisted that Alencar’s “comments do not reflect the position of the government.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to government policy.

Still, the remarks come at an embarrassing time; they were made on the very day that the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously for a sweeping strategy aimed at halting the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately eliminating them.

Brazilian officials have promoted nuclear-generated electrical power and say they plan to build a nuclear-propelled submarine. But Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said in August that Brazil has no interest in nuclear weapons.

Alencar, who is not a member of the ruling party, sometimes expresses positions at odds with Silva’s, said political analyst David Fleischer of the University of Brasilia.

Fleischer said Brazil abandoned efforts to develop nuclear weapons about 25 years ago when the military ceded control of the country to civilians.

Brazil also signed the 1988 Tlatelolco Treaty that bars nuclear arms in Latin America.

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