Brazil Plans Regional Anti-Drug Police Academy in Cochabamba, Bolivia

By Dialogo
September 02, 2011

Brazil is developing the curriculum for a new anti-narcotics police training center it plans to establish in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba — a direct result of the Bolivia-Brazil Action Plan aimed at fighting narcotrafficking.
Police capacity building is a priority area established by the bilateral pact, which was signed Dec. 16, 2010, in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil. The two South American neighbors are working closely with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in La Paz to create the center, which will be run directly by UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). The idea is to turn this initial bilateral endeavor into a multilateral, UNASUR-wide initiative.
“Cochabamba was chosen for its symbolic significance since it will be the seat of UNASUR’s parliament,” explained Murilo Komniski, an official at the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz.
In the short term, 110 Bolivian police officers will receive training in Brazil to improve their skills in protecting border areas, sharing intelligence and controlling transit routes. The new Bolivia-based training center is a medium-term goal; courses are expected to commence in 2012.
Brazil is working with its neighbor to combat the influx of drugs into its territory from Bolivia, which is a drug-producing as well as a transit country, with illicit production entering Bolivia from Peru en route to Brazil. This trend has been exacerbated by increased consumption in Brazil and Western Europe.
Yet the drug trade is a regionwide menace, with more South American countries becoming production and transit points. A decade ago, drug violence was confined to Mexico, Central America and a few Andean countries. Today, Argentina, Brazil and even Chile are under siege by drug traffickers and associated violence.
The new center will cooperate with an existing, international anti-narcotics police training center in Chimoré, Bolivia, known as Centro Garras de Valor. This center, located in the heart of a coca production area and supported by the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia, trains about 400 South American police officers a year in intensive three-month courses.
“The idea is not to compete with or duplicate the courses provided in Chimoré but rather to complement them,” said Komniski, who heads the Brazilian Embassy’s Human Rights, Illicit Transnational and Social Issues sector in La Paz.
He said the courses at Centro Garras are shorter in length and more practical in approach. Their focus is more situational, for example, combating trafficking in specific regions, gathering intelligence under special circumstances, and surviving in jungle terrain.
The new center in Cochabamba, said Komniski, will provide longer courses with a broader, more academic focus. While the curriculum is still being designed, the idea is to ensure that human rights are addressed in all lectures about counternarcotics and public security. The course could last as long as two years with about 500 to 600 graduates per year. Course structure and curriculum contents are expected to be finalized by the end of this year.
On Sept. 28, UNASUR will kick off a two-day Conference on Public Security and Human Rights in Cochabamba; its future police academy will certainly be on the agenda.
Brazil is replicating its success in the setting up of a similar police academy in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau last year with the cooperation of UNODC. Chronic political instability following a civil war period made Guinea-Bissau a hub of a new cocaine trafficking route from South America to supply growing demand for illegal drugs in Europe