Brazilian Border Plan’s Initial Results Extremely Positive, Say Ministers
By Dialogo January 03, 2012
In the last five months of 2011, Brazil’s Strategic Border Plan was responsible for capturing 115 tons of marijuana and cocaine --14 times more than in the first five months of the year.
“The results have been extremely beneficial for the country and the region,” said Vice President Michel Temer, in charge of the Strategic Border Plan, at a press conference announcing the plan’s midterm review. “The data shows the wisdom of this policy and the need for continuity of these actions in 2012 .”
The Strategic Border Plan was launched in June by President Dilma Rousseff in order to fight drug and human trafficking, arms smuggling and other illegal activities that benefit from weak border enforcement.
The plan integrates multiple actions to enhance security along Brazil’s 10,480 miles of borders with 10 countries, which is where most drugs, weapons and illicit goods enter the country. It also makes provisions to improve the quality of life for more than six million border residents living in 500 remote municipalities.
The plan “changed the state of semi-abandonment of Brazil’s territorial limits ,” said Vice President Temer in an opinion piece that recently appeared in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. The article was co-authored by the ministers of defense, justice and strategic matters, as part of official efforts to bring attention to the issue.
“These operations resulted in the interdiction of illegal mining and logging and the destruction of clandestine airstrips often used by traffickers and smugglers. All this in less than six months, we might add, ” wrote Temer.
Integration is the key
Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo and Brazil’s former defense minister, Nelson Jobim, helped Rousseff launch the plan in early June, because it was conceived from the start as a joint, overarching initiative.
The plan’s implementation was actually two separate operations conducted by the military and public security forces. Operation Ágata, under the purview of the Ministry of Defense, and Operation Sentinela, led by the Ministry of Justice, both aimed to fight crime in the border areas.
Rousseff has made a point of emphasizing that the plan’s strength resides in the complementary nature of both operations and in its integrative character.
“Operation Ágata shows the strength of an attentive state, while Operation Sentinela does the daily, permanent work of investigation and information, ” Rousseff said in an October edition of her radio program, Coffee with the President.
Operation Sentinela focuses on intelligence and works jointly with the Federal Police, Federal Highway Police, the National Force, and the National Secretary of Public Security. Federal public security entities and the three branches of the Armed Forces are responsible for Operation Ágata.
Twenty-six federal entities and 12 ministries involved in the management, protection and control of the borders are working in these operations.
“We have had a very positive result in the fight against contraband,” Rousseff said. “We have prevented big quantities of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs from entering Brazilian cities .”
Border states sign off on plan
In early December, 11 Brazilian states approved the plan, which grants them access to 37 millions reais to invest locally. All the states have already submitted integration projects.
The states’ participation strengthens the National Strategy of Public Safety in the Borders, an outgrowth of the Strategic Border Plan, said Cardozo.
The funds will be invested in 68 vulnerable municipalities in the states of Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Pará, Paraná, Rondônia, Roraima, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina.
The resources will be used to develop intelligence, modernize military police units and strengthen the security o waterways and installation of other entities to fight crime in border areas.
Before Operation Sentinela, said Cardozo, “we never achieved the level of integration [with the states and municipalities] that we have today. Everything leads us to believe that, next year, a greater integration will lead to even more dramatic results. ”
So far, three clandestine airstrips have been destroyed, and an illegal mine, hidden in an area where indigenous people were living, has been put out of business.
Nearly 28,000 miles of rivers and lakes were patrolled as part of Operation Ágata. This resulted in 46 vessels seized or reported. The Armed Forces seized 59 motorcycles, 20 trucks, 465 pounds of pesticides, 332 pounds of marijuana, 19.5 kilograms of cocaine, 63 firearms, eight tons of explosives, 345,000 reais and $250,000 in cash.
he protection of the environment is a significant component of these operations; five illegal loggers and three mines were also targeted.
In addition to the 115 tons of cocaine and marijuana, Operation Sentinela seized 473,000 pills, 4.4 million packs of cigarettes and 534 firearms; 4,200 people were also arrested.
The results exceeded all initial expectations, said the justice minister.
“The support we are getting from the Armed Forces is fundamental in deactivating illegal loggers,” said Sérgio Lúcio, superintendent of the Federal Police. He recalled that in the preparatory phase of Ágata alone, the Brazilian Navy seized 300 kilos of cocaine.
On Aug. 7, the hospital ship Oswaldo Cruz, of the 9th Naval District Command, apprehended a ferry with a shipment of ornamental fish. Through Operation Ágata, the authorities contacted the Brazilian Institute of Environment (IBAMA) to take over.
These joint operations with the Armed Forces are a boost to IBAMA’s efforts in fighting illegal logging, mining and trade in valuable protected species.
Rousseff said that Operation Ágata, which has mobilized 17,632 men and women of the Armed Forces, “is a temporary, localized action, but it visibly reinforces the presence of the state in areas where we have identified activities of traffickers, smugglers and gangs. ”
A model for Chile
Last October, during his visit to Brazil, Chilean Defense Minister Andrés Allamand praised the Strategic Border Plan and expressed interest in using it as a model to develop a plan for Chile.
“We have similar problems and we can benefit from the work Brazil has done ,” Allamand told his counterpart, Amorin, who promised to help Chile’s program, which is now in the development phase.
The Brazilian model involves the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, remote sensing satellites, radars and electronic surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
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