The Blue Amazon

Brazil Asserts Its Influence Across the Atlantic

A fisherman casts his line as birds fly over the Sao Conrado beach in Rio de Janeiro, February 26, 2015. Ricardo Moraes / Reuters

After years of shoring up security alliances in Latin America and the Caribbean, Brazil is now looking eastward, asserting its influence across the Atlantic Ocean. Brazil started quietly, providing Africa with technical assistance in science, technology, and professional development.

But over the past decade, Brazil has coupled soft-power initiatives with a dramatic boost in military cooperation with Africa, conducting joint naval exercises, providing military training and arms transfers, and establishing outposts in ports across the continent’s western coast. Today, Brazil’s official defense posture is even more far-reaching, involving the ability to project power from Antarctica to Africa. 

Brazil’s transatlantic partnerships are the culmination of a long-standing ambition. In 1986, alongside Argentina, Uruguay and 21 African countries, Brazil proposed the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone. The unstated goal then, as now, was to minimize external meddling in the region, especially by NATO.

The desire to keep foreigners out of the South Atlantic is motivated in large part by commercial interests. Brazil, in particular, wants to safeguard its on- and offshore natural resources, which the navy calls the Amazônia Azul, or Blue Amazon. These include extensive petroleum and gas reserves, as well as fishing and mining concessions within and beyond its current maritime frontiers. 

Today, Brazil’s official defense posture involves the ability to project power from Antarctica to Africa.

To Brazilian leaders, preserving influence over the Blue Amazon is a question of national security and sovereignty. The Brazilian navy’s PROMAR program actively promotes public awareness campaigns extolling the economic, environmental, and scientific importance of the South Atlantic. 

To secure the boundaries of the Blue Amazon, Brazil is petitioning the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to extend its exclusive economic zone, the area stretching 200 nautical miles out from the coast, in which a country has special rights to explore and use marine resources.

To shore up its demands, Brazil is creating a sophisticated surveillance system to monitor the Blue Amazon. The so-called Blue Amazon

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