Protesting the arms trade in Brazil
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Protesting the arms trade in Brazil

Merchants of war visiting Brazil for the Latin American Aerospace and Defense (LAAD) Trade Show were met with a noisy protest made up of social movements, unions, student organizations, left parties and other popular organizations. The LAAD Fair showcased some of the biggest global names in war profiteering from across the world, including Elbit Systems, Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael Advance Defense Systems, and Israel Military Industries (IMI).

The action, which took place outside of the trade show at the Riocentro, west of Rio de Janeiro, was organized by the Social Movements Session, Rio de Janeiro’s Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian people, and musician Marcelo Yuka. Participants occupied the entrance to the convention site, distributing toy weapons and candy to those who were attending the aptly renamed “Fair of Death”. Many carried banners and posters decrying the destruction recently brought upon Gaza. Several hip-hop groups also preformed at the demonstration.

The LAAD is the largest and most important defense and security fair in Latin America. Every two years, the fair brings together some 300 Brazilian and international companies.

This year, protestors were doubly outraged about the presence of four key Israeli companies in Brazil that supply and profit from the ongoing war waged against the Palestinian people. Elbit Systems, for instance, provides drones, equipment and munitions for all branches of the armed forces as well as developing technology used in the Wall. Rafael is a leader in the manufacture of missile systems, while IMI is the main producer of small arms for Occupation military units and also manufactures armor plating for the infamous Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer.

The fourth Israeli firm present, IAI, also is a producer of drones and related technologies. At a reception following the trade show, the head of the firm announced the beginning of a joint company with the South American company Synergy Group. The newly founded EAE Aerospace Engineering Ltd. will market various technologies tried and tested on the Palestinian people. Yair Shamir, Chairman of the Board of Israel Aerospace Industries, stated, “we will be active in Brazil and other Latin American countries in the aerospace, maritime, and homeland security sectors.”

Activists condemned the Brazilian government for allowing the fair to take place, arguing that in doing so the state placed itself against those who are struggling for freedom, justice and equality in Palestine and across the globe.