Brazil is getting back into its routine following last Sunday evening’s closing of the Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro, its suburbs and other cities throughout the country. The Olympics produced some impressive records, a few satisfied but mostly bitter athletes and, of course, billions of dollars in the pockets of large corporations – in particular big security companies and Israeli arms manufacturers.
Indeed, Israeli security firms and arms traders won fat contracts connected to the games, the most prominent being that of the corporation International Security & Defense Systems (ISDS) owned by Leo Gleser, an Israeli arms dealer of Argentinian origin.
After his military service, Gleser, who in the past served in an elite IDF unit, received an employment offer from the Mossad, but preferred beginning his civilian carrier by working in a security position for El Al airlines. In the 1980s Gleser founded ISDS where he and his staff have provided security consulting services to the organizers of four of the last five Olympics games, but the biggest contract of all was for this year’s games in Rio. ISDS has provided security for the highly publicized visits to Israel of Madonna, Elton John and other rock stars, has fortified homes in Latin America, organized the security of the US Embassy in Rome, and has trained commando units on three continents.
According to an investigative report published in Ha’aretz, “Gleser and his company are a prime example of the symbiotic relationship between state institutions in Israel and privately owned security consultancy firms. To a large extent ISDS was a harbinger, as it was one of the first Israeli security firms to break into the international security market. Since then, this symbiotic system has gotten more sophisticated, so much so that at times the boundary between private companies and state institutions becomes very blurry; increasingly so as the spread of “Private armies” from Western countries providing security services to governments in the Third World has proliferated in recent decades.
This is how it works in Israel: The Ministry of Defense , Foreign Ministry or Mossad receives a request from the head of a country – most often a dictator – for security consultancy or training of military units or other security services. Because the Israeli state authorities cannot, or don’t want to, directly help the ruler, but the request is nevertheless important for them in promoting economic, security-related, or political interests, the officials approach a private Israeli company that it will provide the requested services. In other words, they “outsource” the security assistance requested by the ruler of the country in question.
According to Ha’aretz, in the past, “Colonel Gleser” as he was known in the 1980s in some Latin American countries, was renowned on that continent as an Israeli mercenary who helped oppressive regimes. “I never broken the law,” he told the newspaper a decade ago, in March 2006. “I own a security consultancy firm and not a pirate ship. I’m not a mercenary, and the very use of the term with regard to myself infuriates me. In every country I’ve ever been, I have acted within the legal framework of the state. Every citizen and every business deserves that the state should worry about his or her security. I provide legitimate services that are needed.”
The film Laboratory (2013) by the Israeli director Yotam Feldman devotes a special chapter to Gleser, during which the director accompanies him on a business trip to Brazil. In October 2014, as reported by the Israeli business newspaper Globes “an important achievement was garnered by the Israeli security company owned by the ‘businessman’ (this is how his is described in the article) Leo Gleser: Following the conclusion of a tender competition lasting three years, his company was selected by the International Olympic Committee and the bodies managing the Olympics to manage security for the world’s biggest sporting event. Gleser and his company were granted a fantasticly huge budget of nearly 2.2 billion dollars with which they set up the security apparatus for the games. Gleser was closely followed by the Israeli media during the Games in Rio and his image appeared on television screens in millions of homes. The “Colonel” is not adverse to advertising (especially free advertising) and, when at home, he regularly takes part in social, political, state and public events.
By the way, is Brazil really getting back to routine? Is the right-wing, corrupt, neo-liberal government that was established in the wake of this year’s “civilian coup” (as it is called by its perpetrators and supporters) indeed part of this routine, or rather the key factor pursuing policies which can only deepen the economic despair of the workers and poor?
Arms Trade: There’s Room for Everyone
Gleser’s ISDS is not the only Israeli security-related corporation doing such good business in Brazil, and is not even the biggest. Brazil has become a major market in Latin America for purchasing exported and locally manufactured Israeli weapons and ammunition. The Israeli corporation Elbit began operating in Brazil some 25 years ago and has since acquired local companies to manufacture and market its own products. According to estimates published in the Brazilian press, the contracts involved come to some billion dollars in revenue, from the Brazilian army and the Brazilian aircraft manufacturers Embraer. Even Rafael, the Israeli state-owned weapons developer has supplied Brazil with rockets to sum of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Israel Aeronautics Industry (IAI), also state-owned, didn’t lag behind Rafael and has signed supply contracts with Brazil to tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.