The Brazilian Armed Forces and public security forces seized about $40 million in illicit drugs during operations to combat cross-border and environmental crimes in the states of Pará, Amapá, and Maranhão, in the Brazilian Amazon. Operation Ágata Norte, carried out June 1-9, 2022, strengthened surveillance in land and sea borders up to the limit of the territorial sea.
Authorities focused their operations on combating narcotrafficking and organized crime, smuggling and embezzlement, illegal fishing, illegal mining and exploitation of mineral resources, and exploitation and transport of illegal timber. The operations resulted with the seizure of 2,850 kg of fish, 218 cubic meters of wood, 7,600 packs of cigarettes, 77 boats, 20 vehicles, five chainsaws, 1,200 liters of fuel, as well as weapons and ammunition, among others, the Ágata Norte Operation Joint Command indicated.
“202,000 tons of ore (manganese, copper, and cassiterite) were seized in Vila do Conde, in Barcarena, Pará, the largest seizure of ore ever made in Brazil,” the Joint Command told Diálogo.
This year, Brazilian Navy (MB) Vice Admiral Edgar Luiz Siqueira Barbosa, commander of the 4th Naval District, led the Ágata Norte Operation Joint Command, made up of the MB, Army (EB), and Air Force (FAB). Operations mobilized 3,119 people, including military personnel and civilians from public security and environmental agencies, as well as 50 naval, 47 land, and six air assets.
Operations that had been planned for months were executed simultaneously at strategic points, using maritime, river, land, and air monitoring data, the Joint Command indicated. “State-of-the-art equipment was used, provided by the EB’s Cyber Defense Command, and aircraft from the Aerospace Operations Command, an FAB unit, for maritime patrols,” the Joint Command said.
Ágata Norte is part of the Integrated Border Protection Program, under the Ministry of Defense. The objective is to increase the presence of the State in areas of low population density, through joint operations, to strategically combine efforts and contribute to the security of the region.
Minister of Defense Army General Paulo Sérgio Nogueira de Oliveira visited an area of operation June 2 and highlighted the importance of the actions carried out. “This work aims to preserve our sovereignty, take care of our wealth, and fulfill our constitutional missions,” he said. “It is very gratifying to be able to check the work of the Brazilian Armed Forces in defense of the Amazon.”
Critical to the globe
Curbing crime in the Amazon region goes beyond national security, as the forest is considered a major player in determining global climate, says Amazon Aid Foundation, which focuses on educating people on the importance of the Amazon and finding ways to protect it.
As such in mid-2021, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined forces to combat crimes in the Amazon that include wildlife, forestry, minerals crimes, and crimes in the fisheries sector, UNODC indicated in a statement. The ongoing four-year project supports the regional governments and indigenous communities of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname with an $9.8 million budget.
“This partnership demonstrates the commitment by both USAID and UNODC to address the many complex challenges posed by crime syndicates who have for so long been trafficking and plundering South America’s abundant, yet dwindling, natural resources,” said Jorge Rios, chief of the UNODC Global Program for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime and Chief of the Sustainable Livelihoods Unit.