The objective of Operation Tumucumaque, carried out in partnership with the French Foreign Legion, was to counter illegal activities along the border.
The Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) and the French Foreign Legion stationed in French Guiana conducted an unprecedented operation along the border of both countries: Operation Tumucumaque. EB’s Amapá Border Command and the 34th Jungle Infantry Battalion (CFAP/34º BIS, in Portuguese), headquartered in the state of Amapá, and the French Foreign Legion’s 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment (3º REI, in French) coordinated the operation carried out April 11-13, 2019. The objective was to fight transborder and environmental crimes in the region.
The operation was the result of an agreement between EB’s Northern Military Command and the French Armed Forces Command in French Guiana to enable simultaneous and coordinated use of troops in the border region. “There is integration between subordinate commanders deployed at the border and unit commanders to ensure the feasibility of such operations,” said EB Colonel Gelson de Souza, commander of CFAP/34º BIS.
About 150 Brazilian and 150 French service members participated in Tumucumaque. Units carried out blockades, flood controls, area control, and riverine and land patrols.
Service members conducted 12 activities during the operation and patrolled more than 180 kilometers of rivers. “The missions occurred simultaneously on both sides. While the 3º REI troop was conducting the incursion in Guiana territory, the CFAP/34º BIS troop was conducting river control and blockades, and vice versa, which enabled a more effective result,” Col. Gelson said.
Benefits of a coordinated border operation
For the officer, the first edition of Tumucumaque was successful. He said the combined activity keeps the ties of units that operate in the border active, and promotes operational exchange by sharing information and techniques. “As a result, units improve personnel planning in the region,” he said.
Although this was Tumucumaque’s first edition, units already operate jointly on border patrol and to counter illegal activities. “Due to their proximity, issues can migrate rapidly from one territory to another in the region,” Col. Gelson said. “The integration with the French Foreign Legion is incredible, from the commander of the French unit and his General Staff to our most up to date patrollers, who work together on the Oiapoque River.”
Activities conducted during Tumucumaque also contributed to important information gathering on most common crimes, especially illegal mineral exploration. “The information gathered will be compared against data from image analysis and intelligence reports and will serve as a basis for specific larger-scale operations, such as the phases of [operation] Ágata,” said EB First Lieutenant Leonardo Quintanilha Rodrigues, commander of the Special Border Company’s 1st Jungle Platoon of Clevelândia do Norte district.
“During one of the missions we traveled across the Marupi River, a tributary of the Oiapoque River in Brazilian territory, which is between both countries. The day-long patrol identified various positions showing evidence of mineral exploration — trails and erosion in the jungle,” said 1st Lt. Quintanilha. “The reconnaissance river patrols are always efficient due to our troop’s expertise in a jungle environment and their ability to track signs of human activity within this environment.”
According to 1st Lt. Quintanilha, overcoming logistics obstacles associated with the operation in the Amazon border region was challenging. “The large amount of water, food, and fuel required in these operations is a difficulty presented in long-distance travels,” he said. “Operation Tumucumaque required a thorough logistics study to ensure everything would go as planned,” Col. Gelson added.
On the last day of the operation, EB service members performed a Civic-Social Action (ACISO, in Portuguese), in partnership with the Oiapoque Ministry of Health, in Vila Brasil, providing medical and dental services to the local community, as well as HIV and Malaria testing. “ACISO is very important to the residents of these remote areas. The Brazilian Army is often the only institution capable of providing such support,” Col. Gelson concluded.