Drug seizures up by 130% since the launch of the country’s Strategic Border Plan in June.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Organized crime is facing increased efforts by law enforcement along the 16,886-kilometer (10,492-mile) Brazilian border.
Operation Sentinela (Operation Sentinel) resulted in the seizure of three times the volume of narcotics confiscated by the country’s Federal Police during the first five months of the year. In June and July alone, 33.7 tons of marijuana and cocaine was confiscated, according to the Ministry of Justice on Aug. 29.
The operation is part of the federal government’s Strategic Border Plan, introduced on June 8.
With a 2011 budget of R$20 million (US$12.1 million), the plan calls for coordinated actions between the armed forces and federal law enforcement agencies, according to the Ministry of Defense.
Cooperation with neighboring countries is also part of the strategy, which aims to prevent and combat the most common border crimes: the trafficking of drugs, arms and people; tax evasion; financial and environmental crimes; and homicides.
In July, when Operation Sentinela intensified, a total of 23.5 tons of drugs was confiscated – 22.16 tons of marijuana and 1.34 tons of cocaine – representing a 130% increase compared to the previous month.
The effort also resulted in the arrest of 786 adults and 70 minors.
Of the 8,514 square kilometers (3,287 square miles) of Brazilian territory, 27% is located in border regions – 122 municipalities in 11 states running alongside borders with 10 countries.
The plan prioritizes strengthening security at 34 of the highest-risk locations along the stretch of 7,363 kilometers (4,575 miles) of border land and 9,523 kilometers (5,917 miles) of land along rivers, lakes and canals.
“All of the vulnerable locations identified along the border will receive attention,” says Gen. José Carlos De Nardi, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, responsible for planning joint military operations. “At each location, we will work to curb illegal activities and reduce crime, through the coordination, planning and execution of military and police operations.”
Neither the Ministry of Defense nor the Ministry of Justice disclosed the areas where security forces are conducting joint operations, for operational security reasons.
Operation Sentinela was launched in March 2010, but it gained strength with the new border security plan, which includes a 100% increase in the participation of the Ministry of Justice – through the Federal and Federal Highway police forces – in all missions carried out in the area.
The efforts are coordinated by the federal government, with logistical support from the armed forces.
The Ministry of Justice is also participating in Operation Ágata (Operation Agatha), coordinated by the armed forces, with actions being carried out at predetermined locations. The operation began at the start of August along borders in the Amazon region, which neighbors Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, these last two countries being the world’s largest cocaine producers, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Operation Ágata also includes agreements with other countries.
The first agreement was signed with Colombia on Aug. 4. It’s aimed at creating a Bi-National Border Commission (COMBIFRON) and adopting a Bi-National Border Security Plan.
The agreement is expected to strengthen cooperation and exchange of information among the countries’ armed forces, National Public Security Forces and police forces.
“The plan is to adopt the same military proposal with all of the countries that border Brazil,” Gen. De Nardi says.
Operation Ágata is expected to extend to the Brazilian Midwest, along the borders with Bolivia and Paraguay, as well as to the Brazilian South, along the borders with Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.
The plan also calls for the creation of Integrated Border Management offices (GGIF) that will coordinate and articulate the work of the federal, state and municipal public security entities in the 11 Brazilian states that border other countries.
Improvements to the facilities used by Federal and Federal Highway police are also planned.
“I am certain that this is not an operation aimed at transferring our border problem to neighboring countries,” President Dilma Rousseff said during the June 8 ceremony held to launch the Strategic Border Plan. “On the contrary, it seeks to work together with neighboring countries to protect this border area where we coexist in a harmonious manner, without battles, without conflicts, with 10 other countries from our Latin America.”
We need to put more armed forces on the borders, use drones more often and have stricter Brazilian laws.