Brazilian Armed Forces Strive to Fight Against the Coronavirus in Latin America
By Andréa Barretto / Diálogo March 26, 2020
On March 18, 2020, Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) service members deployed near the Brazil-Venezuela border to stop the entry of Venezuelans into Brazil.
The soldiers followed the orders of the Brazilian government to partially close the border to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Brazil. The order will remain in place until at least April 2. Only goods will be allowed into the country.
On March 19, the Brazilian government also decided to block land borders with eight neighboring countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname. The Federal Police is tasked to enforce the decision, and also counts on EB’s support. The movement restriction applies to the population, not to the transport of goods.
Air and maritime borders are also restricted. The entry of foreigners coming from the European Union and China, among other countries, is temporarily prohibited through airports. Cruise boarding and disembarking are also interrupted.
The decision regarding tourist cruise ships was made after a passenger tested positive for coronavirus on a ship flying the Bahamian flag that was docked at the port of Recife, in Pernambuco. The ship was detained at the port, and about 600 passengers were kept in isolation on March 12.
On March 20, the first group of tourists disembarked with help from the Brazilian Navy’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense. The tourists got off the ship gradually, based on a required screening process. The passengers were taken to the airport to fly back to their countries of origin.
Border control is only one of the Brazilian Armed Forces’ measures for Operation COVID-19. This operation, launched on March 19, outlines the use of military forces in support of Brazilian health and public security agencies to curb the spread of the virus that has caused the pandemic.
Military institutions were required to make their personnel, operations, and logistics resources available. Representatives from the three forces coordinate and plan activities from a Joint Operations Center set up in Brasília.
“This is a war. The enemy is invisible, fierce, and determined in its actions. In times of war, the Brazilian people can count on the Armed Forces,” said Brazilian Minister of Defense EB General Fernando Azevedo.
On February 26, Brazil had the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Latin America. Since then, most countries in the region have taken rigorous measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in this part of the continent. Border closure was only one of the initial measures.
Currently, a majority of the cases are concentrated in Brazil, followed by Ecuador and Chile. Ecuador declared a state of emergency on March 16, with a nighttime curfew for all citizens. During the day, people can leave the house to buy food, medication, and other basic needs. Driving is also limited, and both land and air transportation are banned between the country’s provinces.
Chile declared a state of emergency for 90 days, which enabled the government, with help from the Armed Forces, to ban gatherings in public spaces, control the distribution of basic supplies, establish quarantine and a curfew, and limit the transit of people through cities and the country as a whole.