Current conflicts are complex because they involve territoriality, cultural dominance and customs, writes Marcelo Tognozzi
June 3, 1982. It was the government of General João Figueiredo when the English fighter Vulcan entered Brazilian airspace, after a breakdown in its hydraulic system prevented it from being refueled in flight. The fighter bomber had been sent to fight in the Falklands War and, upon landing at Galeão air base, it almost became a diplomatic incident. But Chancellor Saraiva Guerreiro, who was in a tizzy, calmed things down.
That war was a crazy attempt by General Leopoldo Galtieri, then president of Argentina, to stay in power by betting on an international conflict that, theoretically, would restore Argentines’ self-esteem. The country was going through one of its worst moments, with persecution of opponents of the regime and a disastrous foreign policy, which included aid to the Sandinistas to fight the contras in Nicaragua, then financed by the USA.
These opportunistic wars are always a disaster foretold.
This week, the belligerent atmosphere returned to South America after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced a plebiscite for December 3, in which Venezuelans will decide whether or not they want to annex the Essequibo region, equivalent to 70% from the Guyana area, which borders Roraima. In other words: whether or not they will fight for 160 thousand km² of Amazonian wealth, the greatest of which is oil.
Can we have a war of conquest in the middle of the Amazon sanctuary? Given what we are seeing in Europe and the East, the best thing to do is not neglect the risk.
Guyana was ruled by the British until 1970, when it became independent. Like other former British colonies and protectorates, it is part of the Commonwealth, a community of 56 English-speaking countries spread across the 4 corners of the planet. Its main ally is England. For 21 years, it was governed with an iron fist by politician Forbes Burnham, a faithful follower of the Downing Street manual, independent of the prime minister on duty.
Today, Guyana is governed by the Muslim Mohamed Irfaan Ali, 43, a creation of Burnham’s party, the Popular Progressive Party. By coincidence, born in Essequibo, in a small town called Leonora, he comes from a family of Indian origin.
English diplomacy is already working, since Venezuela’s greed for the Essequibo is nothing new. It dates back to a dispute in 1824. The region was handed over to the British after international mediation in 1899. Caracas protested, but ended up swallowing the result.
Now, 124 years later, Maduro wants to get Essequibo back. The support of China, Russia and the current Brazilian government for Venezuela weighs in his favor, in addition to the war fronts in Ukraine and the Middle East weakening, in theory, the rapid response capacity of England and its allies.
At the same time, China is rehearsing an invasion of Taiwan, after accusing the US of causing security risks in the China Sea. Between defending Israel and Taiwan, China is betting on North Americans’ preference for the former.
China today dominates Africa, another strategic territory, being the largest investor on the continent with US$34 billion in the last decade. The largest supplier of cheap consumer goods is e-commerce Chinese, which overthrew the hegemony of the USA and the European Union. If here in Brazil they swim by stroke, imagine in Africa.
The perception is that World War 3 is underway, with several conflict fronts being opened in order to create chaos, stun the enemy, undermining its ability to deter and respond efficiently.
There is a real, territorial war, like in Ukraine and the Middle East, and a virtual one. They all follow the Gerasimov doctrine, a concept applied to hybrid warfare conceived by the current chief of staff of the Russian Army, Valery Gerasimov, whose head was placed on a price by the Ukrainians and NATO. All this, in a post-pandemic context with inflation and economic imbalance in the 2 richest blocs in the West.
Gerasimov’s war is a complex war. It involves social networks, mass media, large-scale disinformation (such as the bombing of the Gaza hospital), psychological warfare actions and other modalities described in the book “The Mental Domain” by Spanish colonel Pedro Baños, a respected expert in geopolitics. It is no coincidence that the war in the Middle East has a strong cultural and customs aspect.
An average Brazilian couldn’t handle 5 minutes of Islam. The best example occurred at the Qatar Cup in 2022, when many suffered due to the laws of zero alcohol, zero homosexuality and the ban on straight couples exchanging affection in public.
Israel is a piece of Western culture embedded in Islam, considered an affront to customs. The new war made the Western media forget about the other one, that of Ukraine. But deep down it’s just one war.
At the beginning of wars, each person tries to take more advantage. It was like this in World War II until England understood that trying to live with Hitler was feeding a crocodile, as Churchill said. Getúlio flirted with Hitler and then embraced the North Americans and wrested the National Siderúrgica and a bunch of other advantages from Franklin Roosevelt.
A war like the one we are experiencing today will not be won on social media, as idiots and useful innocents manipulated to disseminate narratives whose foundations they are incapable of understanding imagine. It is a war that involves territoriality, cultural dominance and customs.
As in holy wars, where people kill in the name of God, they will now be able to kill in the name of democracy, the fight against fascism or communism, the defense of minorities or a way of life considered inadequate. A diplomatic sin. And a tremendous civilizational setback.
In that war between the British and Argentines 40 years ago, political tensions were at an all-time high. In Brazil, the opposition was the target of bombs and a failed attack could have taken the lives of dozens of young people during a concert in Riocentro on May 1, 1981. Newsstands were set on fire and bombed.
The British Royal Air Force Vulcan was authorized to return to its base 7 days after landing at Galeão Air Base. On its way out, it broke the sound barrier over Guanabara Bay. The bang scared. Soon the phone rang. On the other side of the line, my friend-brother Ronaldo Lapa: “Man, was that a cannon shot? Are they putting troops on the streets?”. “Than nothing”to answer “It’s that English plane breaking the sound barrier”.
A few days later, Argentina would be defeated and humiliated. Galtieri lost the war, his power and his dignity. In 1986, he was arrested and convicted. In 1989, he was released from jail amnestied by President Carlos Menem, one of those he was persecuting. Arrested again in July 2002, he died 6 months later, this time without pardon.