United States and other countries in the arch fromVenezuela to Bolivia, Brazilian President FernandoCardoso issued a directive in 1996 to impede access of non-authorized flights across Brazil’s northwesternborder and to articulate the defense of its portion of the Amazon in reaction to strategies observed inneighboring countries (Presidential Directive, 23February 1996).
SIVAM: Components, Goals, and Development
SIVAM is a complex combination of: (a) fixed,mobile, and airborne radar; (b) ground sensors; (c)telecommunication networks; and (d) computerizeddata collection and information managementstructures.
Accusations by opposition parties and thepress of fraud and legal mismanagement in the initialcontract bid process for SIVAM caused delays andprotracted political difficulties for the program. Butthe first contract was finally launched in March of 1997, and first operations are estimated to begin inlate 2002. Raytheon is the prime contractor for theground technical segment, which will include up to13 air traffic control sites and six mobile radars. Theaerial portion is supplied by Embraer, a Brazilianaircraft manufacturer. It includes: five Embraer ERJ-145SA planes equipped with Ericsson’s Erieye phased-array radar; three ERJ-145RS planes for monitoringnatural resources exploitation and environmentalmissions; eight to 12 weather radar stations; and avariety of water and ground sensors and stations aswell as communication facilities and three regionalinformation processing centers (at Belém, Manaus, andPorto Velho). Air patrol in the region will beconducted mainly by Tucanos ALXs procured fromEmbraer.Authorities—particularly in the Brazilian defensesector—are promising to use SIVAM to provide Brazilwith the overall means: (a) to monitor humanmovements and activities and their impact on theAmazon; (b) to increase knowledge about the region’senvironment, biodiversity, climate, and geophysicalfeatures; and (c) to protect the Amazon’s environmentwhile promoting local economic development there.The first sketchy conclusions about SIVAM’seffectiveness will be drawn as parts of the systembecome operational, are tested, and acquire fullcapability.
The SIVAM program was born in a politicallypowerful crib in the mid-1990s, as issues of economicdevelopment in the Amazon region clashed withenvironmental concerns. Despite the existence of SIPAM, there was no clear national strategy in Brazilto protect the Amazon. The general perception wasthat market forces would continue to sustain thoselarge agricultural projects and migratory movementsthat were putting at risk the ecology of the regionwithout providing even remedial assistance to localcommunities and their traditional development (Silva,1999).
While a large number of Brazilian congressionalrepresentatives from the Amazon states were optimisticabout SIVAM and its possibilities to bring investmentsto their region, the program’s early history saw manycontroversies and much ambiguity—harsh battles overcontracts, accusations of kickbacks and insideinformation, and bureaucratic disputes that marredits technical conception and purposes. The results of a Brazilian Senate investigation of irregularities in theearly stages of purchases by SIVAM’s contractors didnot dispel the cloud of “shady deals” hanging over theprogram (Zaverucha, 1995). Additionally, asconstruction of the program’s radar stations andsensors has moved ahead, cost overrun and conflict of interests have come under investigation by Brazil’sUnion Accounting Court (Fortes & Krieger, 2000).Tangled by accusations of managementwrongdoing, the program has thus far shown little toconfirm its promise to provide useful environmentalinformation to the scientific research community.Indeed, from SIVAM’s inception, national securityconcerns of the Brazilian executive branch (first at thedefunct Secretariat for Strategic Affairs and later theMinistry of Defense) have politically controlled theinitiative.
This control has created a contradictoryimage. The most visual elements of SIVAM thus farbelong to the Air Force air defense project.Nevertheless, SIVAM’s proponents have accentuatedits environmental protection capabilities in order tosecure loans (particularly from within Brazil and from
Author’s Note: This article responds to comments made during a seminar entitled “Brazil’s SIVAM Project: Implications for Security and Environmental Policies in the Amazon Basin,” which was held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC on 14 June 2000. Theviews expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.