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China-Brazil Cooperation Moves Ahead; East-West Railway Project Underway

July 7, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—Ground was broken July 3 for the construction of Phase One of the long-planned, 1,527 km East-West Integration Railway (FIOL) in northern Brazil, which, when completed, will connect the productive mines and agriculture of the states of Bahia and Tocantins to ports on the Atlantic by rail. The first 12-km stretch of FIOL’s Phase One is being constructed by China Railway No. 10 Engineering Group, the company’s first big rail project in Brazil.

The railway is certainly important in itself. President Inácio Lula da Silva went personally for its groundbreaking, accompanied by seven cabinet ministers, the head of the Brazilian Senate, and several Congressmen and state governors. China Railway’s statement on the project emphasizes that the railway will “promote the export of bulk commodities, create thousands of jobs, and lead to an annual cargo transportation capacity of 60 million tons,” China’s Global Times reported.

But Sun Yanfeng, the Latin American director of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, rightly emphasizes that this rail line can be followed by the great game-changer for all South America: a transcontinental railroad. Sun Yanfeng told the Global Times on July 5, as the daily reported: “On one hand, it will establish a channel for transporting Brazil’s resources to the ports; on the other hand, it could pave the way for the construction of the Central Bi-Oceanic railway—a mega 3,750-kilometer railway project running from the continent’s western side all the way to the eastern side and linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.”

In his previous term as President, Lula had been present for the launching of public bidding on the FIOL in 2010. It then stalled and was thrown in the wastebasket with Wall Street/London’s 2016 ouster of then-President Dilma Rousseff. Lula is itching to now get it done. He urged the company executives present for the July 3 ceremony to do everything possible—work overtime, weekends—to finish it by the end of 2026, before its contracted completion date! He told the Brazilian Congressmen to face the challenge before the country, to change the “shameful” fact that Brazil lacks a national railroad engineering capability, and despite having a wealth of iron mines and steel factories, no longer produces railroad tracks, as it did 40 years ago, nor even rail ties, when it once had the largest tie-making plant in the world.

Railroads mean jobs—and sovereignty, he stressed. This project is not being undertaken “in the interest of one businessman or another. It is in the interest of national sovereignty that we build this railroad and other railroads in the country, so that we can make this country competitive with any other country in the world. Brazil will be as big as we want it to be. If we think small, if we think mediocre, if we think very, very, very down, this country will be what it was in the recent years” under President Bolsonaro: isolated from the rest of the world.

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