Minister of Foreign Relations Celso Lafer
Relations and National Defense Committee
Federal Senate
Brasilia, Brazil
October 3, 2001

Mr. President Jefferson Péres,

Senators, members of this panel and commission,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I come to this Public Hearing at the invitation of Senate President Jefferson Péres and in compliance with the motion approved by this House’s plenary. As on previous occasions when I had the privilege of addressing the Members of Congress, I wish to reiterate my feelings of deep respect for this House that is the true expression of our national sovereignty. The Senate demonstrates once more, above party affiliations, its interest in keeping abreast of the international reality and, in the present case, of Brazil’s stance vis-à-vis the deplorable terrorist attacks against the United States.

I am convinced that the National Congress is where the great national and international issues are debated. This is the proper forum where a convergence of positions for the defense of the Nation’s interests is achieved. Thus, in addition to expressing my democratic convictions, my presence here rightly recognizes the Congress’s growing and decisive participation in Brazilian foreign policy and in the definition of public interests.

The devastating September 11 attacks, perpetrated with awesome brutality and at the same time with impressive operational precision, displayed unprecedented features. Their effects were both terrifying and diversified. They had a factual dimension, as they cut down thousands of lives, as well as a symbolic dimension, as they struck both economic and military summits of U.S. power.

In response to a complex and threatening phenomenon, it is natural that reaction patterns also have to be multidimensional.

It should be pointed out that repudiation of terrorism and racism, as provided in Article 4, viii of our 1988 Constitution, is one of the fundamental principles that govern Brazil’s international relations.

By establishing behavioral patterns, and encouraging and limiting behavior, constitutional principles of this type provide a foundation for the State’s external conduct and, on the domestic front, ensure the necessary transparence so that the citizenry may monitor Government action within the international system. This tradition goes back to previous Constitutions. The 1891 Constitution, for instance, prohibited wars for conquest, and encouraged arbitration, consistent with the peaceful inclination instilled by doctrine into our republican form of government.

Repudiation of terrorism as a foreign policy guideline has been consistently observed. This was the case, for example, of the internalization, on April 15, 1992 (through Decree 494) of Resolution 748 of the UN Security Council. Because it is particularly pertinent to my exposition here, I also wish to mention the publication of Decree 3755, of February 19, 2001, internalizing Resolution 1333 (2001) of the same UN Security Council, which, among other sanctions, determines the freezing of financial resources belonging to Osama Bin Laden and to individuals and enterprises associated with him, as well as prohibiting the sale of weapons to the Taleban and the admission into our national territory of that regime’s high-ranking officials.

A decree is now being drafted to internalize the provisions of Resolution 1373 (2001) of September 28, 2001, in which the UN Security Council, invoking Article VII of the Charter of the United Nations, determines additional mandatory measures against terrorism and its financing.

Diplomatic action of the Brazilian Government since the attack has thus been firmly grounded on a constitutional principle that is also consistent with a value embodied in the internal order. I refer to the individual and collective rights and duties contemplated in the Brazilian Constitution and particularly in its Article 5, xliii, which views terrorism as an unbailable crime, not subject to pardon or amnesty, for which are answerable its instigators, perpetrators, and those who, being able to prevent it, omit themselves.

Repudiation of terrorism, a value incorporated into our internal order and reflected in our external action is above all a fruit of autonomy. Here, liberty coincides with the obligatory, and is exercised in compliance with the law. Thus Brazilian diplomatic action, which I will now proceed to explain, is in no way aligned with any heteronomy, any norm imposed from the outside.

The Brazilian Government did not tarry in manifesting the Brazilian society’s indignation over the cruelty of the attacks, and in expressing its solidarity to the American Nation, to which we are bound by solid ties of friendship. This was the sense of the letter sent by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to President George W. Bush, of the statements I issued as Foreign Minister, and of many other forms of manifestation. These have included the decreeing of mourning; a letter from the Vice-President; a press communiqué; a speech by the Foreign Relations Secretary-General before the Organization of American States Assembly in Lima on the occasion of approval of the Democratic Charter; a statement addressed by Brazil’s Permanent Representative before the United Nations to the Security Council; and many other expressions.

The National Congress also voiced its unequivocal repudiation of the terrorist acts along the same lines, thereby interpreting the unanimous feeling of Brazilian society. Political parties and entities representing civil society have acted in the same manner, as well.

Throughout this process Brazil was in constant consultation with the governments of the United States and of the Latin American countries. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has engaged in direct dialogue with the other Presidents, while I myself had the opportunity of exchanging information and ideas with my peers in the other countries in our region.

From the very first moment, it became clear that firm, consistent diplomatic action against terrorism was necessary. This requires a proper understanding of the meaning and the long-range implications of the attacks.

The aggression suffered by the United States was extensive and inhuman. It may change the course of international relations and cause serious disturbances to the international system dynamics.

Since the end of the Cold War, the international system has moved according to two contradictory views. One, based on centripetal forces, is centered on converging expectations, and is encouraged by globalization. The other is impelled by centrifugal forces that induce fragmentation, including that of identities.

The convergence viewpoint was illustrated particularly by the international community’s efforts to find negotiated solutions for issues of a global nature. This was the case of the 1992 Rio Conference on the Environment and Development, the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, and the conclusion of the Uruguay Round that led to the establishment of WTO.

Divergences and asymmetries came to the fore with the territorial breakup of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia, among others. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War—to take up Octavio Paz’s view—signaled the end of the idea of revolution, and led to the "uprising of particularisms." Hence the results of the fragmentation power of modern society itself, seen also in the financial crises, the proliferation of trade disputes, and in the antiglobalization protests of Seattle, Washington, Prague, and Genoa.

If one could point to one element of continuity in international policy throughout the decade, this would be the consolidation of the unrivaled power of the United States, which acquired the capacity for simultaneous action in the strategic/military, political, economic, and financial fields.

Nevertheless, the terrorist act that struck New York and Washington showed that, despite its power, the United States were not immune to violent, brutal attack. Our own societies remain vulnerable, irrespective of the power resources they may have managed to amass.

This lesson is enhanced by the perception that the alleged loss of relative importance of the "security" factor among the issues that determine the object of relations among States is but a hasty, deceptive conclusion.

The recognition that security resumes a central position in the definition of national interests does not imply, however, adherence to the traditional concepts of power politics. One of the features of classical International Public Law is the existence of "mutual abstention norms," based on the reciprocal acknowledgement of sovereignty and the apportionment of competence among states within the international community. This is done essentially through regulation of the states’ territorial competence.

To these mutual abstention norms were added those of "mutual cooperation" that came into being in the 20th century. These norms arose because, despite the scientific and technological revolution, the countries are unable to meet their needs on an exclusively individual, territorial basis. The mutual cooperation norms were thus born out of the requirements stemming from the growing interdependence of states, assisted by advances in communications, transport, modern industry and trade, which have led to the dilution of national borders and the narrowing of the difference between that which is "internal" and that which is "external."

This was intensified after World War II, when there occurred a significant acceleration of technological innovation, and the impact of the technical factor on international relations became evident. The lower costs of transport and communications, the advances in computer science and in information technology, followed by the development of digital technology and the improvement in communication networks, have fueled two phenomena that interest us directly: borders cease to be ‘natural barriers’, and territorial limits tend to disappear in the transmission of information.

The marked dilution of the distinction between the "internal" and the "external" has altered the dynamics of international relations. We can observe the creation of complex governmental and nongovernmental interaction networks that reshape the world and define governance. In this context, a diversity of players, including transnational corporations, nongovernmental organizations and the media, are engaged in international relations.

Throughout the nineties we saw the prevalence of democracy and the autonomy of civil society. Hence, the new role played by nongovernmental organizations, which operate in the public domain as networks for the defense of certain values, such as the environment and human rights. We also became aware of the existence of other kinds of transnational networks, such as those devoted to money laundering, organized crime, illicit arms trade, drug production and distribution, and terrorism. The combination of these networks that operate clandestinely, with others that act publicly tend to escape the control of States and international organizations.

In this new scenario, nations act as indispensable public mediation instances. They mediate internally between their political institutions and the resident population, and externally between their citizenry and the world.

There is no doubt that the emergence of true transnational organized crime networks decreases the effectiveness of isolated, uncoordinated strategies. I am convinced that the fight against terrorism, their authors and those that shelter and sponsor them requires effective action of a multilateral character. Thus, countries play a key role in the establishment of mutual cooperation norms to deal with organized crime networks.

As a player in the international system, Brazil establishes solidarity networks based on our identity, i.e., on the ensemble of circumstances and qualities that shape our particular view of the world and of our interests. Among the factors that help define Brazil’s international identity, I may cite some of the constitutional principles that govern our country’s relations: national independence; prevalence of human rights; and cooperation among peoples for the progress of mankind.

In the case of terrorism, it was thus motivated that Brazilian authorities have now acted. They have sought to associate our country to all international instruments in this area, while at the same time participating in the decision-making process involving the different international organizations of which Brazil is a member.

We must keep in mind the September 11 tragedy that struck a friendly nation that belongs to the community of the Americas. It was an act of aggression against a country in our region.

The concept of American countries as a community or a system will only come true if there is the possibility of collective action to defend shared values and interests.

In some areas, the Inter-American System has indeed given proof of its vitality. It has, for instance, promoted and defended democratic principles in the Hemisphere. One case in point is the recent approval of the Inter-American Democratic Charter by the Special Session of the OAS General Assembly held September 10-11in Lima. On that very day, as it followed with astonishment the news coming from the United States, the Assembly issued a communiqué condemning the terrorist acts, and recognizing the need to strengthen hemispheric cooperation to combat terrorism.

Understanding that the community of the Americas should respond firmly to the brutal attack inflicted on the United States, the Brazilian Government took the initiative of proposing to the United States and the other countries that the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) should be invoked.

Although more than five decades have elapsed since it was signed, the Rio Treaty has not lost its validity. I recall the words of the then-Foreign Minister San Tiago Dantas at the 1962 Meeting of the Treaty’s consultative body. On that occasion, he remarked that vitality of the inter-American system rested on "its capacity to resolve and overcome problems through constructive solutions that evidence a communion of ideas and a union of forces to achieve an objective desired by all."

The decision to invoke the Rio Treaty is clearly consistent with the initiatives taken by the United Nations, which promptly reacted to the September 11 attacks. Resolution 56/1, adopted by the General Assembly on September 12 and particularly the Security Council’s Resolution 1368 forcefully condemned the attacks. These resolutions call those attacks a threat to peace and security; urge the international community to work together to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of those terrorist attacks; call on the international community to redouble their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts including by increased cooperation and full implementation of the relevant international anti-terrorist conventions; and express readiness to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11 and to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of United Nations.

Action on the part of regional bodies to maintain international peace and security is fully consistent with the provisions of Article 52 of the Charter of the United Nations.

Article 52 makes it clear that the action of regional organizations to maintain peace and security do not contradict the provisions of Articles 34 and 35 of the Charter, which establish the UN Security Council’s competence in relation to any dispute or situation likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.

The case under review points to the complementary nature of the universal and the regional. Hence, the obligation on the part of regional organizations to bring to the attention of the UN Security Council any initiatives to maintain peace and security, and at all times to conduct these initiatives in coordination with the Council.

After careful analysis, the Brazilian Government saw the importance of invoking the hemispheric security instrument. Thus, I convened the Ambassadors of the Rio Treaty member countries to Brasilia, on September 14, 2001. On that occasion, I expressed the conviction that the Rio Treaty—which provides for institutional procedures for the rendering of reciprocal assistance to respond to armed attacks and to deal with threats of aggression (either threats from other countries or diffused threats, such as has been the case) against any country in the Americas —is an adequate instrument for the promotion of peace and security on the American continent. I stressed further that the Brazilian initiative to invoke the Rio Treaty stemmed from the conviction that it was necessary to complement on a regional level the intense international mobilization that followed the attacks.

In a special session on September 19, the Permanent Council of the OAS called the Twenty-third Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the Organization of American States and the Twenty-fourth Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of States Party to the Rio Treaty.

On Friday, September 21, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Americas held two meetings in Washington. The first Consultation Meeting, held in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the Organization of American States, was to organize actions of solidarity in response to the aggression. Inter alia, the Resolution adopted, titled "Strengthening Hemispheric Cooperation to Prevent, Combat, and Eliminate Terrorism," vigorously condemns the September 11 attacks; calls upon the member States to strengthen cooperation to pursue, capture, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators, organizers, and sponsors of these terrorist acts; and to strengthen mutual legal assistance and exchange of information. The Resolution further instructs the Permanent Council to call a meeting of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism so that it may identify actions aimed at strengthening inter-American cooperation to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism; and entrusts the Permanent Council with preparing a draft Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism.

Within the context of the Rio Treaty, I was elected by consensus to preside over the second meeting, in recognition of the Brazilian initiative to invoke the Treaty. Acting as a consultative body, the Ministers approved a Resolution titled "Terrorist Threat in the Americas."

The Resolution makes explicit the view that the terrorist attacks against the United States should be considered as attacks against all American States and that all States Party to the Rio Treaty should render reciprocal assistance to confront them. The Resolution further provides that the States should resort to all available measures under the law to capture, extradite, and punish individuals connected with the attacks that might be found in their territories. It also appoints a commission consisting of representatives of the member States in the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States to hold further meetings and monitor the measures agreed upon. The Brazilian Permanent Representative before the OAS was chosen to chair the commission.

In the quality of chairman of the Twenty-fourth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the States Party to the Rio Treaty, which stands as a consultative body, I conveyed the text of the Resolution, "Terrorist Threat in the Americas" to the Security Council of the United Nations through the offices of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, pursuant to the principle of complementary actions of the world and regional organizations.

Since the signature of the Rio Treaty in 1947 during the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace and Security, several Meetings of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs have been held to deal with threats to hemispheric security, which were far from having uniform, undisputed features.

The fact that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Rio Treaty Member States met after nearly two decades to deal with an unprecedented threat shows the Inter-American system’s flexibility and capacity for adapting to the challenges before it.

It also shows the American States’ commitment to take steps in case of an armed attack against an American Nation or when the territorial integrity of an American Nation is the target of an aggression other than an armed attack, an extra-continental or intra-continental conflict, or any other fact or situation that may endanger peace in the Americas.

It should be made clear that there has been no thought of, nor any commitment to the use of troops. The Rio Treaty contemplates the possibility of adoption of the following measures: recalling Mission chiefs; breakup of diplomatic and consular relations; partial or full interruption of economic relations and of communications; and the use of armed forces. The Rio Treaty provides, however, that no country shall be obliged to employ armed force without its consent.

Needless to say, authorization from the National Congress would be necessary should the use of Brazilian armed forces be considered—which, I repeat, is not the case.

Thus the commitment we made in Washington was to seek—within our means and capacities—the best ways to help in our common fight against terrorism. This fight is consistent with the very foundations of our Republic, which was established on the democratic Rule of Law. Our greater objective, in this connection, is to keep the Americas as a zone of peace and security.

As the Rio Treaty is geographically circumscribed, Brazil’s diplomatic objective in invoking it is to find a unique, particular form for its participation in the world, conducive to the maintenance of a peaceful climate in our own region. In his diplomatic work throughout the continent, the Baron of Rio Branco considered this to be of great importance for national development and for ensuring that South America would be an area of peace and progress.

Brazil’s emphatic repudiation of the September 11 attacks from the very first moment is consistent with our recognized inclination for peace and with our long tradition of rejecting violence and the illegitimate use of force. This tradition empowers us to adopt a firm and clear-cut position in full autonomy.

As the Brazilian Government sees it , it is essential that combating international terrorism be done pursuant to our own constitutional norm and in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Organization of American States, and the tenets of International Law.

Brazil has advocated expansion of the conventions that address specific aspects of the problem. Currently there are twelve international instruments against terrorism under the United Nations and two that have been agreed on at the OAS regional level.

Brazil has ratified nine of these Conventions, including the 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Security of Civil Aviation. Three conventions are currently undergoing technical analysis by the Executive Branch, among which the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of Financing to Terrorism. The 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings was sent to the National Congress in June 2001, and the 1991 Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for Detection Purposes has been approved by Congress and is now in the final stage of ratification.

In international forums we have also sought to support the consensual characterization of terrorism as a crime, which may create conditions for the eventual adoption of a comprehensive convention on this matter.

These positions concerning the need for both short- and long-range approaches to fighting terrorism were reiterated this week by the Brazilian Representative before the United Nations during the current General Assembly’s debate on measures to combat international terrorism.

Discussion of this issue by the United Nations is not recent. International terrorism has been on the General Assembly’s agenda since 1972. It has been on the agenda every year owing to terrorist acts, including those against passenger planes of PanAm in 1988 and of the Union de Transports Aérien in 1989.

On international level, it should also be recalled that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-NATO decided on September 12, 2001 that, if the attack against the United States was brewed outside that country, it should be looked at in the light of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. This article provides that an armed attack against one or more of the countries party to the Treaty shall be considered an attack against them all and that each of them will assist the party or parties so attacked. A wide network of solidarity and support for the United States has thus come into being and is translated into major decisions that establish the legal basis for the international community’s action in combating terrorism and dealing with the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

I now wish to refer to the humanitarian consequences of these attacks, an issue that the Brazilian Government has considered of the utmost importance from the very first moment. We should not forget that, in addition to thousands of U.S. citizens, the attacks also hit many people of different nationalities. A second component of our initiatives must then be the assistance and support to Brazilian citizens in the United States. This is one of our external priorities.

Itamaraty earnestly embarked upon this task, as soon as we learned of the attacks.

In Brasilia, a 24-hour assistance center was set up to meet requests of information about Brazilians, and help locate them. We also instructed our diplomatic posts in the United States to remain on full time stand-by for the same purpose.

Through the Brasilia assistance center and the Consulate General in New York we received 427 requests for locating Brazilians in that city. The exhaustive work that is being done by the Consulate includes visiting hospitals and emergency rooms, checking the official lists of city government and firms that had offices in the World Trade Center, and telephoning relatives, friends, and neighbors.

This intensive, relentless work allowed us to locate most people. Only in connection with a few names the search has produced no results, owing particularly to the lack of precise information and the incompleteness of data provided to Itamaraty. I cannot but commend the efficient work done by our missions in the United States, particularly by the New York Consulate General, whose staff, led by the Consul General, worked untiringly to provide assistance and search for information. We are continuing our efforts, mindful of the anguish of relatives and friends here in Brazil.

On September 22, I had the occasion of visiting the New York Consulate General and witnessing their intense work, as well as personally expressing my solidarity to representatives of the large Brazilian colony, at a special session of the Community Council.

I now move on to another issue that I deem relevant. To reinforce internal security, steps have been taken to prevent terrorism in Brazil. To cite but a few examples: a much more rigorous control at airports, the monitoring of financial operations that might be linked to terrorism, and watching out for the possible presence in Brazil of individuals connected with terrorist activities.

This possibility, which has been raised by both the Brazilian and the foreign press, points to two regions in Brazil: the Uruguayan border, more precisely the city of Chui; and the border with Paraguay and Argentina, particularly the city of Foz do Iguaçu, located at the so-called Triple Border.

So far, however, as President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has said, there is no proof of any activity in that region that might be linked to terrorist acts. Still, the New York and Washington attacks have led to enhanced vigilance in the Triple Border region, which, as a place of a significant flow of people and operations, should always be the focus of attention in terms of surveillance and control. The Brazilian, Argentine, and Paraguayan police and intelligence continue to work closely in this regard. Moreover, the Ministers of the Interior or of Justice of the Mercosur countries met in Montevideo last September 28 to review the situation in that region and to evaluate pertinent measures to be taken.

I now wish to touch on an issue that has to do with our sensitiveness as a multiethnic country where Brazilians of every descent, and followers of different religions live in harmony, peacefully. The cities of Chui and Foz do Iguaçu both have sizeable communities of Arab descent, including Palestinians, and numerous Muslims. Let me categorically and emphatically say that we must react strongly against any type of prejudicial attitude toward those of Arab descent or of the Islamic faith, or toward any other ethnic or religious group. On various occasions, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has publicly condemned discrimination. Even President Bush himself has more than once alerted against the unacceptable injustice any such attitude would represent.

I recall further that repudiation of both terrorism and racism is a constitutional principle that informs our international relations. This is consistent with Article 3, iv of the Brazilian Constitution, according to which one of the fundamental objectives of the Federative Republic of Brazil is "to promote the well-being of all, without prejudice as to origin, race, sex, color, age, and any other forms of discrimination."

On September 26, Itamaraty issued a note condemning and repudiating any form of discrimination against individuals from any ethnic or religious group, stressing the centuries-old tradition of harmonious relations among the various communities that make up Brazilian society, founded on the juridical order dictated by our Constitution.

We must bear in mind that Brazilian society has thoroughly pluralistic origins, remains pluralistic today, and to be pluralistic in the future is its vis directiva.

Traditionally, the promotion of security has been associated with national strategies based on the relative accumulation of power resources, particularly military resources. This is an area, then, in which prospects for cooperation among States have met with difficulties.


Paradoxically, the trail of destruction left by the terrorist attacks may provide some reason for optimism and lead to a review of the international agenda. The severance of power and national security has made it clear for all of us that the scourge of terrorism cannot be effectively fought without decisive, coordinated action by the international community.

It seems increasingly clear that international cooperation can only happen with the strengthening of multilateralism, and of commitment to International Law, which is fundamental for the ordering of international relations.

This is more than an aspiration. We should stay the course toward a more secure and democratic international scenario, which is the result of cooperation fueled by common objectives and institutions.

One of the results of the September 11 events may be a renewed thrust toward new forms of cooperation and the conviction that the solitary exercise of power will not solve the great issues that affect us. Greater consensus, more consultation will endow with legitimacy the major initiatives required on the political, economic, and commercial levels. Better world governance might be the beneficial consequence of the great solidarity movement generated by common repudiation of senseless terrorist acts. It is incumbent on all of us to work in order to bring this about. This is the direction that President Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s acts are taking. In this regard, I may inform that the President of the Republic is working with his peers towards this objective.

Thank you.