Brazil and Colombia Exchange Experiences on the Fight Against Organized Crime
By Nelza Oliveira/Diálogo October 25, 2018Brazilian Minister of Public Safety Raul Jungmann met with Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Trujillo, in Bogotá, Colombia, August 22, 2018. The ministers discussed collaboration on border security, immigration, and the fight against organized crime. Jungmann’s visit to Colombia is part of defense diplomacy, an integration effort among security forces of countries most exposed to organized crime as a result of representing the top drug producing or consuming markets. The countries’ ministries of Security, Foreign Affairs, and Defense carry out the combined effort.
Brazil shares 17,000 kilometers of borders with 10 countries of which four are global drug manufacturers: Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Public Safety’s Public Affairs Office, the government committed to greater integration with neighboring countries in 2016, focusing on air, river, and land monitoring programs; investing in technology and intelligence; and adding more troops to the Armed Forces and Federal and Highway police corps. Minister Jungmann’s visit to Colombia, the Brazilian Ministry of Public Safety told Diálogo, aimed to strengthen the integration.
“The transnational nature of organized crime has made it clear during the last two years that fighting it cannot be achieved at the national level,” said Jungmann. “There is a strong awareness that a fight such as this must not be fragmented, but integrated.”
Partnership against organized crime
In Medellín, Jungmann learned about Colombia’s plan to reduce homicides, which reached 380 per 100,000 inhabitants at the peak of the cartel period. The rate now dropped to 25 per 100,000. The minister was also briefed on urban mobility solutions applied to public security and the National Police, social programs run by their own beneficiaries, the town hall’s partial administration by the private sector, and the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Brazil and Colombia have territories under the control of drug traffickers and criminal organizations, limiting government intervention. Criminals influence both countries’ electoral process, allowing only some candidates to campaign in their turf. Criminals also use local communities as drug outlets—indigenous populations and riverine communities in Brazil, and fishermen in Colombia.
However, Colombia’s narcoguerilla phenomenon, narcotraffickers associated to revolutionary guerrillas with communist ideologies, is not present in Brazil. “As far as organized crime is concerned, international narcotrafficking is one of the main problems both countries face. Brazil wants to leverage Colombia’s successful experience with crime rate reduction and combatting cartels, especially in Bogotá and Medellín,” Jungmann said.
According to Brazil’s Ministry of Public Safety, projects related to citizens’ security, inspired by Colombia’s positive results, are ongoing in Brazil. One such project is the Community Peace Center, headquartered in Recife, Pernambuco, in the country’s northeast. Jungmann’s visit resulted in an informal exchange agreement that will have the mayor of Medellín reciprocate with a trip to Rio de Janeiro.
According to the Ministry of Public Safety, a memorandum of understanding between both countries is already in the final stages. The agreement, soon to be executed, seeks to strengthen migration cooperation through information exchange to improve combined operations in the fight against transnational crimes.
“There are some ongoing operational agreements around information exchange and combined operations in specific areas. We move toward the most critical point at the operational level, which entails deploying forces in another country’s territory, subject to explicit rules, and provided that possible detainees remain in the custody of the country where the arrest took place,” stated the Ministry of Public Safety, adding that the countries’ partnership is robust with harmony and synergy among their security and defense sectors.
Brazil’s cooperation with Colombia is longstanding. The 1996 National Antidrug Action Program already provided for the creation of Police attachés in each country’s embassies in Brasília and Bogotá, which occurred in 1999. Existing partnerships focus on the fight against organized crime, border security, and immigration issues, resulting in international agreements, and interagency and combined memorandums of understanding.