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The BBC's James Robbins
"Brazil took a decision to quit the arms race"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 21:20 GMT
Life without the bomb

Brazil abandonned the nuclear arms race a decade ago Brazil is proud of its non-nuclear policy


By James Robbins in Rio de Janeiro

In 1990, Brazil took the decision to quit the arms race and to help make Latin America a nuclear weapons-free zone.

Since then, there has been an extraordinary turnaround.

The arms race has been renewed and other nations are desperate to join the nuclear club.



We believe that it's important for us to be a democratic country not based on nuclear weapons
Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Brazil's President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, says that his country's constitution is clear.

"Brazil renounced nuclear weapons and this was endorsed by the Brazilian population, the Brazilian political parties, the press, so this now belongs to the Brazilian civic culture," he says.

"We believe that it's important for us to be a democratic country not based on nuclear weapons."


Politician fills in nuclear bore hole Politicians fill in nuclear bore hole
Brazil's generals came very close indeed to exploding the country's own nuclear device. The evidence, a bore hole 300 metres deep, is to be found at a remote site in the Amazon. It was intended for an underground atomic blast.

Brazil's first civilian government made a very public show of stopping the secret work.



I see no reason whatsoever why India and Pakistan do not follow the same road
Professor Jose Goldemberg, University of Sao Paulo
President and ministers were seen by Brazilians filling in the hole - symbolically putting an end to Brazil's role in the arm's race.

Professor Jose Goldemberg of the University of Sao Paulo exposed the secret project and helped to shut it down.

Though he still works on peaceful atomic research, he does have one regret: That the rest of the world has not rewarded Brazil enough for its unilateral action.

He is concerned that this lack of appreciation will not encourage other countries to follow the same path.


Goldemberg: Goldemberg: "Disappointed" with big powers' attitude
"Oh, I'm highly disappointed. I see no reason whatsoever why India and Pakistan do not follow the same road, and I think that if Brazil had been more rewarded, probably the Indians and Pakistanis would understand that they could get more from the great powers," he says.

No turning back

Brazil has benefited from its decision to pursue a non-nuclear policy.

At the vast military research establishment where scientists worked in secret on the bomb, they now use their money and know-how to build satellites and to further develop Brazil's space programme.


Brazil now spends money on its space programme Brazil now spends money on its space programme
That is all possible because the big powers are willing to share their most highly-sensitive technology with Brazil, a trusted country.

Despite this favoured position, some Brazilians regret that their country has not been rewarded with a bigger voice in world affairs.

President Cardoso plays down any disappointment. Instead, he is quick to emphasise his authority as civilian commander-in-chief.

The armed forces are now reconciled to this fact and are resigned to life without nuclear weapons.

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