Porto Alegre a target for international drug trade
By Dialogo March 21, 2012
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – The Federal Police in Rio Grande do Sul are taking steps to prevent Porto Alegre from becoming a new route in the international narcotics trade.
Attempts to ship drugs through the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul intensified in June 2011, when TAP airlines started direct flights to Lisbon, Portugal.
Since then, at least five suspects have been arrested with cocaine destined for Europe.
The Federal Police have intensified surveillance to prevent a new narco-trafficking route from being established through Porto Alegre.
“A new route is opening up through Peru, which isn’t a major producer but serves as a distribution channel to other countries,” says Officer Mário Luiz Vieira, chief of the Narcotics Bureau for the Rio Grande do Sul Federal Police.
The first major bust came just two months after TAP started direct flights between Porto Alegre and Portugal.
Eight suitcases loaded with cocaine were seized at Porto Alegre’s Salgado Filho International Airport on Aug. 16, 2011.
The cocaine, which had a high purity level, was hidden inside the luggage’s lining.
Police became suspicious of the three nervous-looking passengers, leading them to search their luggage. The two men, ages 28 and 34, are from the states of Maranhão and Rondônia, and the woman, 22, is from Santa Catarina. All three were arrested on narcotics-trafficking charges.
The trio departed Porto Velho, the capital city of Rondônia, and made a stop in São Paulo before they were approached by authorities at the airport in Porto Alegre.
The Narcotics Enforcement Bureau has an ongoing investigation into the trafficking network connected to the case.
During a single week in 2012, the Federal Police arrested two foreigners who tried to travel to Lisbon with shipments of cocaine.
On Feb. 2, a 48-year-old Spanish national appeared nervous as he waited in line to depart, leading authorities to search the passenger’s luggage, where they found 6,855 kilograms (15,112 pounds) of cocaine hidden in two protective laptop computer covers.
The suspect confessed to authorities the drugs were en route from Peru to Brussels, Belgium.
Less than 24 hours later, an approximately 40 year-old female native of Lithuania was arrested for possession of 6,640 kilograms (14,638 pounds) of cocaine that she was transporting from Peru to Europe.
“These arrests have a very positive effect on the fight against crime,” Vieira says. “We’re going to strengthen enforcement with trained sniffer dogs in a few months.”
But the main objective of the Federal Police is to disrupt international criminal networks.
“We don’t want to just arrest the mule, which is the person carrying the drugs,” Vieira says. “We’re interested in going after the big dealers, striking at the organization and destabilizing its members.”
The Federal Police also work with law enforcement agents from other countries to combat international drug trafficking.
In December of last year, eight suspected narco-traffickers were arrested in connection with the seizure of 1,200 kilograms (2.645 pounds) of cocaine on the French island of Martinique. The arrests were the result of a cooperative effort between Brazil’s Federal Police and officers from England and France.