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Latin American and Caribbean Service Members join forces in anti-chemical weapons exercise

By Nelza Oliveira From Diálogo

The Regional Assistance and Protection Exercise for Member States of the Latin American and Caribbean Region brought together service members and representatives of chemical emergency response agencies from Brazil and 18 other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and marked the official launch of the Regional Chemical Weapons Assistance and Protection Center for Latin America and the Caribbean.

From August 28th to September 1st, Rio de Janeiro hosted 15 service members and representatives of chemical emergency response agencies from Brazil, along with 22 representatives from 18 other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for the Regional Assistance and Protection Exercise for Member States of the Latin American and Caribbean Region (ExBRALC II, per its Portuguese acronym). The exercise closed out a series of regional trainings previously conducted in Uruguay and Argentina with the goal of developing skills to protect society against chemical-product threats.

General César Augusto Nardi de Souza, head of Joint Operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Brazilian Armed Forces, stated during the event’s opening at the Army War College (ESG, per its Portuguese acronym), in Fortaleza de São João, in the southern district of Rio de Janeiro, that the ExBRALC II has implemented and standardized lessons learned from basic and advanced courses at past editions of the exercise in the region’s countries.” Besides protection in the event of combat or war, the techniques and means used also serve to support civil defense in the event of chemical accidents. We aren’t immune to having chemical accidents on a massive scale,” said Gen. Nardi. “In addition to the threat of terrorism, we now have the chemical industry, with a strong petrochemical sector, which for an array of reasons might have accidents, perhaps not with the lethal nature of an attack involving specific toxic agents, but one that requires skills that we in the Armed Forces and Civil Defense have in order to address this type of emergency,” he added.

Brazilian expertise

Gen. Nardi used the opening ceremony to highlight Brazil’s experience gained in recent years in this field.” The defense sector’s involvement, in particular with respect to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense, has been intense in terms of the major events that have taken place since 2007, of the Pan American Games in Brazil,” he explained. “With Brazil having been selected to host so many big events like the Confederations Cup, Rio+20, the World Cup, World Youth Day, and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, our expertise in this field has only grown stronger, resulting from the concrete legacy left from learning through practice over this period of time, especially in partnerships with other agencies and entities,” Gen. Nardi pointed out.

ExBRALC II’s activities were conducted at various military units in Rio de Janeiro, like the Brazilian Navy’s Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, and Radiological Defense Center, the Specialized Instruction School, and the Army’s 1st Battalion of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, and the Aerospace Medical Institute of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym). All instructors are Brazilian service members, with the exception of one instructor from Paraguay. The training addressed topics such as prevention, detection, sweeps, decontamination, medical triage, preparation for transportation, and evacuation with specialized assistance in the event of accidents involving chemical substances, employing state-of-the-art equipment to monitor, and identifying this type of agent.

Brazilian center for chemical weapons assistance and protection

During the opening of ExBRALC II, the Regional Chemical Weapons Assistance and Protection Center for Latin America and the Caribbean (CAPAQ-BRAZIL, per its Portuguese acronym) was officially inaugurated. It centralizes all the Brazilian Navy, Army, and Air Force equipment and human resources to combat chemical weapons. The center will organize, plan, and coordinate courses, internships, exercises, lab activities, inspections, and anything else required to combat chemical weapons, in addition to working with other governmental agencies to optimize procedures and cooperate in compliance with international agreements. The creation of CAPAQ-BRAZIL is in response to a request by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

“Within that format, each branch’s expert trainers, their facilities, and their equipment will spearhead the effort to conduct any exercises and courses that the OPCW requires,” Gen. Nardi explained.

“In this way, Brazil hopes to have taken a big step toward joining forces with other countries, significantly contributing to the assistance and protection against chemical weapons, as established in Article 10 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” he added. CAPAQ-BRAZIL is headquartered at the Ministry of Defense, in Brasília, and operates in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communication, and the Ministry of Foreign Relations, in cooperation with the OPCW.

“As we all know, science, technology, and innovation depend heavily on what is being done in military fields, regardless of the modality. In terms of banning chemical weapons, we have not only developed products used in emergencies or in combat activities, but also in the process of destroying weapons as well,” explained Luís Felipe Silvério Fortuna, head of the Special Advisory Council on International Affairs of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communications. “I once again would like to emphasize Brazil’s interest in technical cooperation with other Latin American and Caribbean countries to create and implement specific legislation and administrative control mechanisms, as well as to improve the capacity of the professionals who work for the national leaders to enforce the CWC’s provisions,” he added.

According to Ambassador Eduardo Prisco Paraíso Ramos, head of the office representing the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Rio de Janeiro, the center’s creation now enables Brazil to expand its cooperation even further with the OPCW and other developing nations. “We want to reiterate Brazil’s firm, unwavering support for strengthening the disarmament and non-proliferation of chemical weapons and the pursuit of the goal of a world free of weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “It is essential for us to gather other Latin American countries together to discuss this type of issue, to train them to solve it in the event of chemical emergencies. It is really important for us to play a leading role,” Ramos concluded. The opening of ExBRALC II also involved a display of the military equipment used in chemical-defense procedures at the ESG’s facilities.


Inflatable Decontamination Tent of the Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, and Radiological Defense Company, of the Marine Engineering Battalion, on display at the opening of ExBRALC II. (Photo: Nelza Oliveira, Diálogo)

Protection clothes against nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological agents were presented at ExBRALC II. (Photo: Nelza Oliveira, Diálogo)

Military authorities and representatives of chemical emergency response agencies from Brazil and 18 other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean attended the opening of ExBRALC II at the Army War College, in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo: Nelza Oliveira, Diálogo)

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