Argentina Increases Northern Border Security
By Juan Delgado/Diálogo October 23, 2018About 400 troops of the Argentine Armed Forces deployed to the north of the country to strengthen the fight against transnational organized crime. Under Operation North Integration, service members deployed since September to collaborate with local police forces along the more than 3,000-kilometer border with Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay.
Units of the Argentine Army provide logistics support with vehicles, radars, and communications equipment to counter drug, arms, and human trafficking and related crimes. Service members also provide humanitarian aid to the population with health campaigns and other activities, such as refurbishing schools.
“The government was absent along vast stretches of the border, but we are here today to announce a military coordination program to reassure one another that we are taken care of,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri said during an official visit to Huacalera, Jujuy, to launch the operation. “We should be very happy with the level of commitment the [military and security forces] have to the work they carry out.”
The Army, through human capabilities and equipment, provides logistics support with helicopters, transport vehicles, communications materials, and drones, among others. The Argentine Air Force participates with its aircraft, patrolling the airspace with A-4AR Fightinghawk fighter-bombers.
“In parallel, we carry out specific training activities, such as shooting exercises, patrols, and troop maneuvers onsite, in an effort to dissuade crime with the mere presence of military personnel,” said Argentine Army Colonel José María Colombo, head of the Communication and Press Department of the Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff. “This operation also has a social side, since we use the Armed Forces’ territorial capabilities to work in coordination with provincial governments and the Ministry of Health and Social Development to carry out community work.”
In late September, as part of North Integration’s humanitarian efforts, Army medics and nurses carried out health campaigns in several communities of Jujuy province that border Bolivia. More than 400 people received medical assistance, while a dozen patients underwent surgery for gallbladder removal or hernia repair, among others.
“This is the first time that a surgical team of the Argentine Army deploys in the country, marking a turning point in the history of modern military health,” Argentine Army Colonel Lucilo López Meyer, director of Assistance and Emergency of the Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Diálogo. “We did a total of 17 surgeries in four days with the proper equipment and supplies. The goal is to provide adequate medical assistance under quality standards.”
The military also refurbished schools in mountainous and hard-to-reach areas of the provinces of Jujuy and Salta. Army personnel worked together with local electricians, plumbers, and carpenters to repair electric systems, replace classroom floors, update bathrooms, and paint walls.
North Integration is part of Protected Borders, a plan launched under the framework of the Argentine National Defense System reform Macri introduced July 23, 2018. The Armed Forces’ modernization process stipulates their use in support operations for national security, with the ability to intervene jointly with police forces.
The plan seeks to combine efforts and improve security forces’ performance in remote, sparsely populated areas of the provinces of Jujuy, Salta, Formosa, Corrientes, and Misiones, which lack government presence due to the mountainous and jungle geography. Criminals use the porous borders in these areas for illicit activities, such as bringing in drugs.
During his official visit to Jujuy, Macri said that authorities carried out more than 28,000 antidrug operations, seizing 400,000 kilograms of drugs since December 2015. Argentine Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich highlighted the efficiency of military support, pointing to the late September 2018 seizure of nearly 600 kg of cocaine and marihuana in the town of San Antonio de los Cobres, Salta province, thanks to joint efforts from elements of the Argentine Gendarmerie and the Armed Forces.
“Narcotrafficking is a threat to national sovereignty within what are now called global threats. As such, it should be countered in compliance with legal principles in force,” Col. Colombo said. “We combat narcotrafficking by defending our national territory; namely, providing logistics support to the Argentine security forces: Gendarmerie, Coast Guard, and Federal Police—nothing more than determined by law.”