Brazil Promotes New Phase of Operation Ágata

Brazil Promotes New Phase of Operation Ágata

By Nelza Oliveira/Diálogo
July 15, 2016

The Brazilian Ministry of Defense launched a new phase of
Operation Ágata between June 13th-22nd to combat illegal trafficking of people,
drugs, weapons, munitions, as well as contraband and environmental crimes
across the borders. Phase 11 covered nearly all 17,000 kilometers of the
country’s borders across 11 Brazilian states. Throughout its 10 days in
operation, Ágata relied upon nearly 12,000 members of the Armed Forces and the
cooperation of a number of neighboring countries.

Approximately 10,000 Brazilian Army personnel, 600 Air Force
personnel, and 1,700 Navy personnel were directly involved in the operation.
Another 2,000 worked on the support side, for a total of nearly 15,000
servicemembers, according to Lieutenant General Hudson Potiguara, Deputy Chief
of Joint Operations of the Ministry of Defense. “This is a joint operation with
countries along our border. All of our neighbors were invited, and we had confirmed
monitors in Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, Argentina, Bolivia, and elsewhere. They
all participated and have all reinforced their individual borders,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Potiguara stated that this partnership was
essential for Operation Ágata’s strategy. If a criminal escapes Brazil and
finds his way into another country, Brazilian military personnel cannot go
after him or act across the border. However, because of new multilateral
efforts, Brazil can now alert the neighboring country, which allows them to be
prepared to act within their territory.

“This partnership is very important. We don’t fight border
crimes alone,” said Lt. Gen. Potiguara. “Fighting border crimes is in
everyone’s interest. This interaction with our neighbors is what ensures
operational success.”

In addition to military personnel, members of city, state,
and federal law-enforcement agencies such as the Federal Highway Police, the
Federal Police, the Brazilian Tax Authorities, and the Brazilian Intelligence
Agency (ABI) took part in the operation, as well as nearly 40 government
institutions that worked together to combat border crimes. Operation Ágata
involved highway inspection and monitoring as well as land, air, waterway, and
sea patrols.

Outcomes of Phase 11 of Operation Ágata

Operation Ágata was established by decree in 2011 under the
Strategic Border Plan (PEF, for its Portuguese acronym). The initiative is
headed by the Ministry of Defense and coordinated by the Joint Staff of the
Armed Forces. Actions of Phase 11 of the operation were deployed simultaneously
in the areas of the Amazon Military Command (CMA), based in Manaus (Amazonas
state); the Military Command of the West (CMO), based in Campo Grande (Mato
Grosso do Sul state); and the Military Command of the South (CMS), based in
Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul state).

According to the final report published on June 24th, Phase
11 of Operation Ágata included 126,259 vehicle inspections and checks at
checkpoints on roads and highways in all of Brazil’s border regions. Shipboard
inspections were conducted at 7,732 river checkpoints and 575 naval and river
patrols were carried out. Teams from the National Civil Aviation Agency
inspected 62 aircraft and 13 airfields.

The Brazilian Air Force carried out 40 air patrols and
aerial reconnaissance of seven suspect areas, particularly in the southern
triple border between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. It also intercepted 22
unknown aircraft along the border. They had been flying over or near the area
of the operation without a flight plan and were identified by the military.

The Brazilian Air Force carried approximately 40 tons of
cargo and 1.2 million passengers in support of the Army, particularly the
border platoons, along with police and federal agencies involved in the operation.

In its 10-day tactic, Ágata resulted in the seizure of 5.7
tons of explosives; 168 weapons; 22,865 munitions; 11 tons of marijuana; 123
kilograms of cocaine; 122 kilograms of other illegal substances; and 4,400
cubic meters of timber. A total of 71 people were taken into custody.

“Each region has its own characteristics, and the materials
seized under the operation vary widely from one place to the next,” Lt. Gen.
Potiguara said. “In the Amazon, for example, our operatives seized a lot of
illegal timber. In the south, there is more electrical and electronic

A report published by the Institute for Social and Economic
Development along the Borders (Idesf, for its Portuguese acronym), based out of
Foz do Iguaçu (Paraná state), shows that the apprehended contraband through
Operation Ágata has resulted in a direct increase in tax revenue for the
affected areas. The study took into account eight phases of Operation Ágata,
carried out between 2011 and 2014. According to Idesf, a decrease in the supply
of contraband encourages consumption of goods legally manufactured in or
legally imported into Brazil. The report also shows that contraband goods
account for approximately US$7.5 billion in lost tax revenue along its borders.

An estimated US$215,000 in goods, where taxes had not been
paid, as well as approximately US$5,000 in contraband, were seized during Phase
11 of Operation Ágata. Public officials also collected approximately US$191,300
of funds from unknown sources.

Social Support for Border Populations

In addition to security measures, Operation Ágata provided
medical and social care to underserved populations in border cities through
civil-military efforts known as Acisos for its Portuguese name. These included
fostering cultural activities and distributing medication to those in need.

By the end of Ágata’s 11th version, 9,278 Brazilians
received medical attention; 6,082 received dental care; and more than 34,000
preventive health measures were adopted. Soldiers also provided maintenance and
worked on renovations of 231 public buildings, mostly schools, and helped
repair 68 roads. The services secured identification papers for 1,108
undocumented citizens and promoted more than 26,000 social and cultural

In a video message, Minister of Defense Raul Jungmann
stressed the importance of Operation Ágata after a visit to the states of
Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul on June 17th and 18th.

“This is an act of defense. The border is a sensitive zone
for national sovereignty and defense. And that is our primary mission.
Secondly, this represents constructive action in terms of improving public
security, especially in our big cities,” Minister Jungmann said. “And thirdly,
these actions, in which the Ministry and Defense and the Armed Forces are
engaged, are extremely important to ensure that everything goes safely and
smoothly during the Olympics.”

Phase 11 of Ágata marked the beginning of a series of
actions to increase security of the Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio de
Janeiro in August. Other phases of the operation also preceded major events
such as the Confederations Cup in 2013 and the World Cup in 2014.

“In addition to doing the basics for public security –
preventing criminal activity, seizing illegal substances and weapons and so on,
– the Army, Navy and Air Force are working together on social issues other than
the Acisos; namely combating Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue,
chikungunya and Zika viruses,” Minister Jungmann added.