Brazilian Navy Deploys Troops to Border with French Guiana

Brazilian Navy Deploys Troops to Border with French Guiana

By Nelza Oliveira/Diálogo
June 19, 2018

Amapá, a state in the far north of Brazil, will now count on troops from the Army, Navy, and Air Force to fight transborder crimes.

In July 2018, a deployment of the Brazilian Navy’s (MB, in Portuguese) Captaincy of Ports will head out to Brazil’s border with French Guiana in Oiapoque, an Amapá border municipality, 590 kilometers from the state capital of Macapá. The goal is to contribute to the expansion of ocean- and river-based transport security, prevent water pollution, and fight transborder and environmental crimes in the region.

The Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) already set up its 22nd Jungle Infantry Brigade, also known as the Foz do Amazonas Brigade, at the end of January. The new unit was launched to reinforce protection for the 1,980 km-long Brazilian border region with Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, the location of MB’s new deployment, Oiapoque, has around 25,000 inhabitants and is the farthest city from the state capital. Accessible via dirt road, the city struggles to provide reliable electricity and communications.

On the border, crimes such as contraband, human and drug trafficking, and illegal mining, are a constant. The border station will initially have nine service members.

Forces working together

“The Navy’s presence will facilitate the regulation of vessels, ensure the work force is qualified, fight crime, provide navigational and public safety, increase local commerce, create a job market, and add prestige to the town, given the presence of all three armed forces in the region,” said MB Vice Admiral Edervaldo Teixeira de Abreu Filho, commander of the Fourth Naval District.

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) has an airspace control deployment in Oiapoque since 1989, one of 26 in operation in the Amazon. Its presence in the region is to ensure safe flights, transport passengers and cargo from hard-to-reach areas, carry out border air surveillance, and combat transnational crime. As part of the project to modernize the region’s airspace control, the Remote Aerodrome Flight Information Service recently set up an aeronautical telecommunication station pilot project that provides information to pilots on meteorology, wind and runway conditions, temperature, and pressure.

Access to remote areas

FAB is of the utmost importance in the region for access to healthcare services for indigenous tribes in the most remote areas. In April 2018, the Harpia Squadron rescued a 26-year-old woman, the victim of snakebite, in the village of Taraykary, about 225 km from Macapá. FAB took another woman, who was around 13 weeks pregnant, to the emergency hospital in the state capital. Without FAB, patients would have had to endure a more than 12-hour walk, then continue down the river, on a voyage that would take days to reach the closest city with medical care.

“A mission like this demonstrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, FAB’s commitment to the population, wherever Brazilians may be. In the Amazon, the difficulties are as vast as the expanses of territory, and it’s not unusual for a mission like this one to be a deciding factor between life and death. Oftentimes, people’s life expectancy is tied to one of our aircraft’s ability to land,” said FAB Captain Waldyr Moyses de Oliveira Junior, in a FAB press release.

EB’s new Foz do Amazonas Brigade, which manages operations of the 34th Jungle Infantry Battalion’s Amapá Border Command has two bases in Oiapoque: the Special Border Company, in the district of Clevelândia do Norte, and the Special Border Deployment, in the district of Vila Brasil. “The brigade’s creation, following the national defense strategy’s prioritization of the Amazon region, increases our military presence on the eastern side of the Amazon, enabling better coordination of the brigade’s military organizations, and represents the Brazilian government’s presence in the large Amazonian void on a stretch of the border with Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana,” said EB Major General Luiz Gonzaga Viana Filho, commander of the new unit.

According to Vice Adm. Edervaldo, MB will operate in conjunction with the other armed forces, as well as public safety and oversight agencies to fight environmental and transborder crimes. The officer noted that the region has a considerable number of unlicensed vessels in operation, specifically involving fishing activities from unqualified people. “Therefore, the creation of a Captaincy of Ports deployment in this location will facilitate the maritime community’s access to registration of their vessels and to take basic courses to train the region’s navigators,” he concluded.