19 May 2007


In a diplomatic u-turn, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided not to attend the international meeting on cluster bombs that will be held in Lima next week, from 23 – 25 May. Some 70 countries are expected to turn up to the talks.“As one of Latin America’s major powers, and a strong advocate on humanitarian issues, Brazil should be leading the continent in tackling the horrific civilian consequences of cluster munitions,” said Thomas Nash, of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).Cluster munitions are weapons that can disperse up to several hundreds of smaller submunitions - or "bomblets"- over wide areas. The danger of cluster munitions is twofold because many of the submunitions fail to detonate on impact, leaving them scattered on the ground like landmines, ready to kill and maim when disturbed or handled.Civilians make up the vast majority of the victims of cluster bombs and children make up a high percentage in many countries.Brazil is one of three South American producers of cluster munitions, together with Argentina and Chile, both of whom are participating. Brazil had also originally registered for the conference, where a draft treaty will be discussed.But in spite of earlier statements at the Human Rights Council, denouncing cluster bombs, the Brazilian government made a last minute decision to withdraw.This means the country will not be one of the more than 20 countries who in Lima will join the original group of 46 from a launch-meeting of the process in Oslo, Norway in February.Argentina, Colombia and Chile are among the countries who have agreed to implement a global ban on cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians by 2008. In Lima, they will be joined by Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela: a list of countries campaigners say Brazil should be on.“Argentina and Chile, as producers, have started to take responsible steps towards ending the use of these indiscriminate and inhumane weapons. Where is Brazil?” asks Brazilian campaigner Cristian Wittmann of the International Campaign to Ban Landimines (ICBL), and member of the CMC.“There is room in this process for all countries that are serious about tackling the problem of cluster munitions, and we hope that Brazil will reconsider its position,” said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch, Co-chair of the CMC.