Argentina Launches First Smart Border Surveillance System In Latin America

Argentina Launches First Smart Border Surveillance System In Latin America

By Eduardo Szklarz / Diálogo
December 10, 2019

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The equipment will be essential to counter narcotrafficking coming from Bolivia and Paraguay.

Argentina has taken a step forward in the fight against narcotrafficking with the addition of mobile sensors as part of an Integrated Border Surveillance System. The devices, operational since October 1, 2019, join a structure already in place with fixed sensors, radars, vehicles, and patrol ships, creating the first smart border surveillance system in the region.

“This technology comes from Israel and is very similar to the system used at U.S. borders,” Argentine Secretary of Security Eugenio Burzaco told Diálogo.

The system operates with four Command and Control Centers, located in the northern towns of La Quiaca, Salvador Mazza, Aguas Blancas, and Puerto Iguazú in the Tri-border Area. “There are four computerized centers that gather imagery, databases, and technological reports coming from different sources, like drones, satellites, sensors, or armed speedboats,” said Burzaco.

Some drones fly over certain areas, while others are like aerostatic balloons, connected by cable to a fixed point. The system also uses thermal cameras with night vision of up to 3.7 miles, as well as radars that penetrate through the foliage and trees.

The four armed speedboats patrol the Paraná River, one of the country’s main points of entry for marijuana. “All these mobile and fixed elements send information to the Command and Control Centers, which activate Gendarmerie teams [border patrols] or the Naval Prefecture [coast guard service] in certain situations,” said Burzaco. “These situations can range from an illegal flight entering Argentine air space to people entering the country via illegal border crossings.”

Eugenio Burzaco, Argentine Secretary of Security, said that the new sensors will help protect the “hot border” with Bolivia and Paraguay, the country’s main point of entry for most illegal drugs. (Photo: Argentine Ministry of Security)

Hot border

The new sensors will protect the “hot border” with Bolivia and Paraguay, where more than 85 percent of the drugs entering Argentina originate. “Cocaine and marijuana mainly enter the country through this border,” said Burzaco. Methamphetamine, ecstasy, and other synthetic drugs either come from Europe or use the same logistics routes that are used for cocaine and marijuana.

The “hot border” is almost 1,242 miles long and is dry in several areas. “This makes it very porous and difficult to control with human resources alone,” the secretary said.

Air Force

The surveillance system allows for target detection and identification, which in turn activates automatic alerts. When an alert is set off, military or security forces take action, depending on their jurisdiction. “When the illegal aircraft is in the air, it’s under the jurisdiction of the Argentine Air Force [FAA, in Spanish],” said Burzaco. “When these aircraft land or drop their cargo, the security forces take action, mainly the Gendarmerie.”

FAA concentrates the radar system’s information at Merlo Military Air Base, in Buenos Aires province, which resends the information to the Command and Control Centers. Members of the Prefecture, Federal Police, and Airport Security Police also work jointly in the centers to integrate information.

Criminal groups

Burzaco highlighted the cooperation among Latin American countries to counter narcotrafficking. “In recent years, for example, we’ve worked with Paraguay to eradicate marijuana crops, which is another useful measure to prevent drugs from entering Argentina,” he said. “The big problem in the region today is the advance of criminal groups, which take on new means to inflict damage, such as the First Capital Command [Primeiro Comando da Capital] and the Red Command [Comando Vermelho].”

These organizations operate in Brazil and neighboring countries, such as Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru. “These groups pose tough challenges for our countries, so we should have more control in critical border areas,” Burzaco concluded.