The Brazilians call it “SIVAM” – a powerful array of radars and other sensors, networked to monitor both criminal activity and environmental conditions in the Amazon, the world’s largest wilderness.
In English, it’s called the Amazon Surveillance System. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on a trip through Latin America, was to visit its headquarters in the jungle city of Manaus deep in the Brazilian interior on Wednesday.
Rumsfeld has pushed for countries to assert control over remote areas within their borders, arguing that criminal and terrorist elements could flourish in the absence of a government presence.
Drug flights over the area covered by the network have been reduced by 30 percent since it went online, according to a senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The $1.4 billion network of airborne and ground-based radars and computers can also monitor illegal landing strips and climatic conditions in some of the 2 million square miles of jungle that comprises the Amazon.
SIVAM was built by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Corp. Critics have argued it focuses too much on security issues and not enough on regions where illegal logging and other environmental damage takes place.
While in the Brazilian capital, Rumsfeld was to meet with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and top security officials. The Brazilian-led peacekeeping effort in Haiti was expected to be a key item on the agenda.
Prospects for a planned election this fall in Haiti remain uncertain, Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
“It takes a lot of efforts and planning from a security standpoint,” he said, citing the Bush administration’s experience in setting up elections in Afghanistan and Iraq. “You simply have to be ahead of it or it can get bad fast.”
Elections are set for October and November. Brazil has deployed more than 1,100 troops in Haiti, but peacekeepers have been criticized for not being aggressive enough in the face of widespread violence. Bureaucratic delays have also prevented much of $1.2 billion in pledged reconstruction money from being spent.
Rumsfeld arrived in Brazil from Argentina on Tuesday. He was to fly to Guatemala later Wednesday.