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Brazil - US lobbies for more security in the 2016 Olympics - and wants to profit

Natalia Viana, 8 December 2010, 09.00 GMT

Cables sent from U.S. Embassy in Brasilia and published by Wikileaks reveal that the U.S. is hoping to profit from security concerns over the World Cup soccer matches in 2014 and Olympic Games Rio 2016.

Immediately after Brazil’s election as host country for the Olympic Games in October 2007, security issues were top of the list of subjects discussed during bilateral meetings between U.S. diplomats and members of the Brazilian Army. The embassy sought to increase the number of U.S. personnel deployed to Brazil, as well as to push for enhanced military cooperation and commercial opportunities.

A blackout that “plunged 18 of Brazil’s 27 states into darkness for periods ranging from 20 minutes to 6 hours” on November 10, 2009 offered - in the words of the administrative advisor of the Embassy - an excellent occasion to pursue this matter with the Brazilian government.

“The newly heightened concerns about Brazil’s infrastructure as a result of this blackout, combined with the need to address infrastructure challenges in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, present the United States opportunities for engagement on infrastructure development as well critical infrastructure protection and possibly cyber security” wrote Cherie Jackson, charge d’affairs at the U.S embassy in Brasilia, in Cable 237368 to Washington on 1 December 2009. (click here).

Jackson noted that despite the fact that the physical security of infrastructure facilities have never previously been a priority in Brazil, more attention will be paid to this matter in the run-up to the games. She said the Brazilian authorities "admit the possibility of an attack" and plan to identify the major facilities that need to be protected.

In her memo Jackson encouraged several U.S. government agencies – including the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security - to exploit the potential opportunities. “This would be an excellent occasion to encourage the military to military Communication,’” she wrote.

The future is now

Just over three weeks later - on 24 December 2009 – Lisa Kubiske, the deputy chief of the U.S. embassy in Brasilia sent a detailed follow-up report to the Pentagon entitled "Rio Olympics - The Future is Now" (click here). The cable also suggests opportunities for trade and military cooperation.

"The GOB (government of Brazil) understands that it faces critical challenges in preparing for the 2016 Games and has shown greater openness in such areas as information sharing to cooperation with the USG (U.S. government) as a result," wrote Kubiske. Ministry of External Relations (MRE) Coordinator for Sporting Cooperation Vera Alvarez “went so far as to admit that terrorists could target Brazil because of the Olympics, a highly unusual statement from a government that officially believes terrorism in Brazil does not exist,” she added.

The U.S. is not alone in the effort to profit from the Olympics. On November 11, 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres led a delegation of 40 Israeli companies to Rio de Janeiro. "Just as we did with the Olympics in Greece and China, we are offering special technologies of communication and security," he said during the visit.

Brazilian way

Kubiske also complained that the Brazilian government has made many promises but done very little planning or taken any other action to date. "Articulating the big picture goals and leaving details to the last minute may be a typically Brazilian approach, but could lead to problems,” Kubiske wrote in her cable. She complained that the U.S. embassy has not been able to get in touch with the Brazilian Ministry of Sports, noting that the UK government - which will host the Olympics in 2012 – has also been unsuccessful in such efforts.

“The delays we expect from the GOB in planning and executing the preparatory works for a successful World Cup and Olympic Games will almost certainly place greater onus on the USG to ensure that necessary standards are met,” she concluded.