A small, scratched metal can thrown on the ground created Brazil’s first diplomatic embarrassment of 2012. The canister of tear gas had been collected by pro-democracy activists in Bahrain. Stamped across the can in blue was a Brazilian flag and the words ‘MADE IN BRAZIL.’
One year had passed since Bahrain became the stage for pro-democracy protests by the majority Shiites against the Sunni monarchy commanded by king Hamad bin-Isa Khalifa. The protesters had been punished by the Bahraini army and neighboring countries. At least 35 people died and hundreds were injured.
According to the protesters, the Brazilian tear gas used to punish them had also caused the death of babies. “Some people think that the tear gas from Brazil had more chemical substances. There is some kind of ingredient that, in some cases, makes people foam at the mouth and have other symptoms. We are not sure about its composition, but these reactions have been very frightening. It’s much worse than American tear gas,” said the human rights activist Zeinab al-Khawaja to Brazil’s paper O Globo.
However, little is known about how the gas made by Brazilian non-lethal technology company Condor fell into the hands of troops that punished pro-democracy protesters. The company, located in Nova Iguacu, in Rio de Janeiro, affirms that it doesn’t export to Bahrain, but says that it sells to other countries in the region without specifying which.
All arms exports — whether light arms or not — are approved by Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations and the Ministry of Defense. However, once approved, the government doesn’t have much control. The Ministry of External Relations recognizes that it doesn’t have powers to investigate the situation; after the Bahrain scandal, a press officer said that the ministry is merely ‘observing [the development of these occurrences] with interest.’
The responsibility of verifying this information is left up to the company.
“It’s a contract between private parties. It can involve a foreign government, but the company is responsible for its product,” says the press secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs. “The contracts generally prohibit any resale. The company Condor is trying to monitor its product. We are in an ongoing dialogue.”
See also here.
Large U.S. public relations firm hired to smear Bahrain opposition: here.
Bahrain Propaganda 101: What’s Latest from Regime’s PR Firm Qorvis? Here.
No Justice in Bahrain: Unfair Trials in Military and Civilian Courts: here.
The number of Bahrainis active online has increased significantly since the start of the country’s uprising on February 14, 2011. A year on, people still turn to their keyboards, assuming the role of citizen journalists, to documenting the continuing violations committed by the regime against protesters, activists, and others who speak up and demand freedom and equality: here.