Argentina and Bolivia Strengthen Fight against Drug Trafficking
By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo January 03, 2017On November 21st, the Bolivian Special Anti-Narcotics Forces (FELCN, per its Spanish acronym) seized 105 kilograms of marijuana and 47 kilograms of cocaine in the department of Santa Cruz. The FELCN operation prevented drug traffickers from using a traditional drug trafficking route to smuggle some of the drugs into the Argentine province of Salta. Such efforts have been reinforced by the growing anti-drug cooperation between the Argentine and Bolivian air forces. The prime example of this mutual agreement is the Joint Exercise Árbol I (Tree in English), carried out from October 24-29 along their shared border. During the exercise, light Argentine and Bolivian aircraft were used to implement rules of coordination and information transfer regarding unlawful air traffic. “The army sought to maintain a common language and to establish procedures for both air forces, as Brazil and Uruguay have already done,” Commodore Fernando Rubio, head of the Argentine Air Force (FAA, per its Spanish acronym) Training and Preparedness Command Planning and Programs Department and co-commander of Exercise Árbol, told Diálogo. “By these measures, we’ll establish better communication between the two air forces, which will allow project continuity between the two countries.” The Bolivian Minister of Defense, Reymi Ferreira, highlighted the importance of Exercise Árbol to security and defense cooperation. “(The exercise) is aimed at optimizing control over unlawful air traffic along the border between the two countries in faithful observance of the constitutional mandate regarding airspace defense,” Ferreira said in a press release issued by the Bolivian Information Agency. “These types of activities strengthen coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime and drug trafficking, and also potentially with respect to humanitarian aid in natural disasters and emergencies,” concluded Ferreira. Unlawful traffic simulation For the joint exercise, the Argentine and Bolivian militaries employed aircraft, detection technology, communication systems, and command and control mechanisms. “A simulation of unlawful air traffic was jointly performed by the Argentine Air Force and the Bolivian Air Force (FAB, per its Spanish acronym),” said Cmdre. Rubio. “Argentine planes crossed into Bolivian territory, and Bolivian planes crossed into Argentina.” The FAA aircraft were positioned at the Tartagal Airport in Salta. The FAB aircraft were part of the IV Air Brigade of Tarija, in the south of Bolivia. The officers expressed satisfaction with the results. “Exercise Árbol allowed for the establishment and testing of rules of coordination and cooperation for control of unlawful aircraft activity along the border between the two countries,” said Cmdre. Rubio. 3D radar Exercise Tree also employed an Argentine 3D primary radar, a long-range device manufactured in Argentina, which is of particular importance in the fight against drug trafficking. “We've been working arduously on the issue (of the radar) since the execution of the agreement between the Military Manufacturing Directorate General and the government enterprise Investigaciones Aplicadas in the Argentine province of Rio Negro, which allowed for the development of this technology to begin in this country,” said Cmdre. Rubio. The agreement, signed in 2011, called for the production of six 3D long-range primary radars for the FAA. “Today, we have 3D radars with a range of 400 kilometers, which form part of the National Airspace Surveillance and Control System,” said Cmdre. Rubio. “The fact that all this technology came from a national company is cause for pride and a source of sovereignty that provides regional and worldwide distinction.” Regional cooperation Exercise Árbol also allowed for the tightening of bonds and the exchange of experiences between the two air forces. According to Cmdre. Rubio, working with the FAB was very gratifying. “Bolivia's airspace command is still in its embryonic stage. Argentina’s was implemented several years ago. Because of this, the exercise allowed Bolivia to gain training in how to put together such an airspace defense structure.” “In this case, the FAB appeared very grateful and satisfied. This was the initial starting point for them to begin creating a structure that could respond to various scenarios,” added the Exercise Tree's co-commander. “Without a doubt, the exercise was held at a level congruent with the requirements imposed, and attracted the interest of the neighboring country's high authorities.” Air Major General Celier Aparicio, commander of the FAB, said that the fundamental idea behind all these exercises is the interdiction and removal of the unlawful vector. “What is meant by ‘unlawful vector’? It could be an aircraft flying for purposes of drug trafficking. This is in the fundamental interest of the Argentine and Bolivian people,” Maj. Gen. Aparicio said in a statement published in Bolivian digital daily La Razón Digital.