Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday inaugurated a naval installation that will make parts for conventional submarines - and eventually a nuclear-powered sub - under cooperation agreements signed with France in 2009.
The launch of the facility marks the first concrete step toward construction of what will be Latin America's first submarine powered by a nuclear reactor.
"With this initiative, we join a select group of countries with access to a nuclear submarine," Rousseff said.
She stressed that the nuclear-powered watercraft that Brazil plans to bring into operation in 2023 will not be an instrument of war, but rather will aid in conflict prevention and defense.
"The defense industry is a peace industry, but above all a knowledge (industry)," Rousseff said, adding that the facility inaugurated Friday also will be a center for "technology production and diffusion."
The agreements with France cover the joint production of five submarines, one of them nuclear-propelled; 50 helicopters; a military shipyard; and a naval base, all with French technology.
The plant inaugurated Friday, the shipyard and the military base will require investment of 7.8 billion reais ($3.9 billion) through 2017 and create 9,000 direct jobs and 32,000 indirect jobs, the Defense Ministry said Friday.
The head of that portfolio, Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister at the time the agreements with France were signed, said at the inauguration ceremony that Brazil "understood that it can't delegate its security and must assume (responsibility for) it with the best equipment."
"A country that is forever dependent on what others provide it can't be autonomous, nor defend its resources, its population or its position in the world," he said. EFE