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Brazilian Army Tightens Control over Explosives in Preparation for 2016 Rio Summer Olympics

Brazilian Army Tightens Control over Explosives in Preparation for 2016 Rio Summer Olympics

By Dialogo
November 04, 2015

We can't let our country remain in the hands of corruption.

It’s not just athletes who are intensively training for the world's largest sporting event, the upcoming 2016 Rio Summer Olympics: the Brazilian Armed Forces are also ramping up their preparation efforts ahead of the Games with the goal of providing security worthy of a gold medal.

As part of this effort, they're closely monitoring the chain of production, sale, storage, and transportation of explosives and other controlled substances that can be lethal when used by criminals, according to the Army’s Social Communication Center (CCOMSEx). About 400 products, including firearms, rockets, explosives, and chemical weapons are officially classified as controlled substances. The Brazilian Army will continue to surveil such materials throughout the competition, which is scheduled to take place August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro and the capitals of five other Brazilian states – Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Salvador, São Paulo, and Manaus. Rio will also host the Paralympic Games from September 7-18.

The Army “has also been performing specific tests and training exercises beyond the normal seminars and planning sessions,” said General Luiz Felipe Linhares, the Defense Ministry’s Special Advisory Chief for Large Events, in an interview with Diálogo.

Two successful operations

As part of this effort, security forces recently conducted two operations to monitor controlled substances: Operation Rastilho (Short Fuse) and Operation Alta Pressão (High Pressure).

Troops carried out Operation Short Fuse from September 23-25, with inspection teams traveling 37,000 kilometers throughout the states of Bahia, Sergipe, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Tocantins, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, and the Federal District of Brasília. Soldiers visited factories, armories, quarries, warehouses, and mines, in addition to meeting with couriers and miners, in their search for illegal controlled substances. Canine units also helped in the inspection and surveillance process, sniffing along highways used by trucks that transport goods, including controlled substances.

Overall, they conducted 342 searches and seized 103 tons of ammonium nitrate (a fertilizer that can be used to produce explosives); 25,401 kilograms of explosives; 821 percussion caps; 65,153 meters of detonator cord; and 400 meters of fuses. Soldiers also arrested two suspects and issued fines or warnings to 64 businesses.

Operation Short Fuse was the first undertaking coordinated by the Controlled Substances Action Center (COPCON), which the Directorate for the Surveillance of Controlled Substances inaugurated on September 8.

“COPCON allows for better coordination of operations and better dissemination of the results of these operations," the CCOMSEx stated. "For example, a video conference is held every day in a secure location so more interaction and integration can take place within the system."

One month after Troops carried out Operation Short Fuse, Soldiers executed Operation High Pressure, which focused on pre-selected targets. Those inspection teams seized 15 AIRSOFT guns (pressure weapons that have both permitted and restricted uses, depending on the gun’s specific classification), 24 other weapons, 45 scopes, and 10,291 rounds of ammunition of various calibers, in addition to issuing fines or warnings to 24 businesses and arresting two suspects during 227 inspections at businesses nationwide.

Preventing terrorism

The intensification of the surveillance of controlled products shows that public security forces are on the right path to preventing acts of terrorism at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said Vinícius D. Cavalcante, director of the Southeastern Region of the Brazilian Association of Security Professionals (ABSEG).

“The Armed Forces have an enormous responsibility regarding the planning, coordination, and execution of measures that will ensure safety at an event as large as the 2016 Olympics. Although no event is 100% safe, we must not allow gaps and faults in the system to be exploited by such ruthless and cowardly enemies as terrorists."

The possible use of explosives and other controlled materials for potential attacks during the Olympics is a grave concern for the Commander of the Army, General Eduardo Dias da Costa Villas Bôas.

“Brazil has never really had a tradition of terrorism, but the Olympic Games do,” he said in an interview with Brazilian newspaper Zero Hora
published October 10. “What has to happen is not a human-against-human matter. We must prevent acts of terrorism from ever occurring and not combat the terrorists themselves. We are taking all possible security measures and using all intelligence. We have a tough road ahead of us at the border areas, but we are prepared. The Army alone will deploy between 18,000 and 20,000 service members.”

The planning process also includes the creation of the Integrated Center for Counter-Terrorism Defense (CIET), an agency that will bring together representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defense, the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, and Interpol (International Police). CIET’s sole mission will be to prevent and combat acts of terrorism. The center is in the last phase of implementation, as protocols establishing the jurisdictions of each institution and how each will use its unique capabilities are being finalized.