Brazil: Operation Ágata’s humanitarian arm
By Dialogo June 13, 2014
JAGUARÃO, Brazil – Weapons and armored cars have been replaced by haircuts, medical services and horseback rides.
Those were some of the free services offered to the residents of Jaguarão in the state of Rio Grande do Sul during Operation Ágata 8’s Civic-Social Action (ACISO) on May 18-19.
ACISO is the humanitarian arm of the Armed Forces’ efforts participation in Ágata, one of the operations of the Federal Government’s Strategic Border Plan. And Jaguarão, on the border with Brazil and Uruguay, is one of the dozens of cities being served.
Maria Ester Silveira Mello, a 52-year-old cook, spent four hours with her husband, Dinarte Morais, 71, enjoying various services offered out of the large tent set up in the courtyard of the Joaquim Caetano State School in downtown Jaguarão.
“It’s great to have the Army here. I wish they should stay longer or carry out this initiative more often,” Mello said. “We always have a long wait to receive treatment at the health clinics or the hospital. Here, they can see me in two minutes.”
Ágata 8, carried out on May 10-21, was part of the defense initiatives introduced before the World Cup and involved 30,000 soldiers, as well as state law enforcement personnel, the Federal Police, the Federal Revenue Service and the Federal Highway Police.
“Our institutional mission is to protect and serve the community, not just to deter crime,” Division Gen. Geraldo Miotto, commander of the Army’s 3rd Division, said.
Miotto added the services were adapted to meet the most urgent needs in Jaguarão, which has a population of just more than 28,000 residents. During the 11 days, Ágata 8 provided 30,000 medical and dental consultations from the north to the south of Brazil, according to the Ministry of Defense.
“We conducted ACISO on a daily basis in specific communities located along Brazil’s 16,866 kilometers of land borders with 10 other countries,” Miotto said.
ACISO in Jaguarão involved more than 100 soldiers from the Army and Navy who provided healthcare services, leisure opportunities, as well as the maintenance and clean-up of public places.
“We’re here to help people. The majority haven’t been to the dentist in a long time or have never been,” said Manuel Rieth, an aspiring dental officer who joined the Army in 2009.
He and four other colleagues carried out 175 dental procedures in Jaguarão, which is 348 kilometers from Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul.
Tarsila Raquel Dias Corrêa, 9, was eager to sit in the dentist’s chair.
“This is new. Most people want to stay as far away as possible,” Rieth said jokingly. “It’s no use coming here if you leave and never floss.”
Eva Eni, 72, led her husband, 74-year-old retired baker Vanderlei Rodrigues, to the school, arm in arm. He thought they were just going for a walk, but her plan was to bring him in for a check-up.
“My husband always runs away from exams,” Eni said to the soldiers.
Upon detecting that Rodrigues had high glucose levels, nursing technician Sgt. Sabrina da Silva Araújo said he needed to talk with a clinician.
“Now, I have no way to escape,” Rodrigues said.
Sitting in front of medical aspiring officer Maurício Perez Zeni, he listed his ailments.
“Doctor, it seems that my glucose is high, but I take medicine. I also have asthma and I feel pains in my back,” said Rodrigues, one of the 144 patients treated during ACISO’s two days in Jaguarão.
At the barber shop, Ariane Calvetti Martinez, 8, gave a wary look at Davi Coelho, 57, who has spent the past 16 years as the barber for the 12th Mechanized Calvary Regiment of Jaguarão.
“I thought that barbers only cut men’s hair, but I like how it came out,” the little girl said, giving a goodbye hug to Coelho.
“The smiles from these children are priceless,” said Coelho, who together with his 32-year-old son, Rodrigo, offered the most popular service at the local event. Together, they gave 220 haircuts.
The flow of people was heavy on both days, with more than 1,200 people served, games in the gymnasium and even horseback rides.
“These are very poor communities that need our help,” said Vice Admiral Leonardo Puntel, commander of the 5th Naval District, headquartered in Rio Grande. “For example, this work shows another side of the Navy’s operations. Many people think we only work along the coastline.”
The city is bisected by the Jaguarão River. On the other side of the river is the Uruguayan city of Rio Branco, where duty-free shops attract a daily influx of Brazilian tourists. At the Mauá Bridge and along the highways connecting the two cities, about 1,000 soldiers from the Army took turns staffing the 24-hour inspection checkpoints introduced as part of Operation Ágata 8.
Along the Jaguarão River, Navy speedboats carried out surveillance.
Ágata 8 seized 40 tons of drugs in 11 days in northern and southern Brazil, up 53% from the 26 tons of drugs seized in May 2013 in Ágata 7, which lasted 19 days.
A majority of the drugs (39.5 tons of marijuana) were destined for the narcotics markets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, according to the Ministry of Defense.
A Federal Highway Police checkpoint in Dourados in Mato Grosso do Sul found 15 tons of drugs in a truck headed to São Paulo.
Operation Ágata 8’s figures, according to the Ministry of Defense
40 tons of drugs seized;
Also seized: 206 boats, 126 automobiles, 28 weapons and 58 cubic meters of illegal timber;
Inspections carried out on 122,428 vehicles and 7,776 boats;
More than 20,000 people searched.
Civic-Social Action (ACISO)
12,443 medical and 16,655 dental treatments;
226,346 doses of medicine distributed;
Maintenance of 62km of highways and repairs on 104 public facilities.