Regional Effort to Fight Security Threats

Regional Effort to Fight Security Threats

By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo
October 09, 2018

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The Brazilian Navy consolidates joint cooperation strategies to fight transnational criminal organizations.

For Admiral Eduardo Bacellar Leal Ferreira, commander of the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese), consolidating joint work strategies and collaborating with Latin American and Caribbean naval forces to fight regional threats are among his priorities. To meet his goal, Adm. Leal Ferreira conducts information exchange, interoperability work, and combined operations, among others.

Adm. Leal Ferreira participated in the XXVIII Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC) in Cartagena, Colombia, July 23rd-26th. The commander spoke with Diálogo about the relevance of IANC, institutional advances, and interoperability operations, among other topics.

Diálogo: How important is Brazil’s participation in IANC?

Admiral Eduardo Bacellar Leal Ferreira, commander of the Brazilian Navy: IANC is the highest level naval forum among American navies. This event began in 1959 with the participation of 19 member nations, in addition to the Inter-American Defense Board and the Inter-American Naval Telecommunications Network Secretariat. The conference represents a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, knowledge, and mutual understanding of maritime issues affecting the continent. It also encourages permanent professional contact among navies of participating countries to promote hemispheric solidarity. Having commanders of these navies together to discuss complex issues allows us to develop well-founded solutions for common problems affecting the countries of the Americas.

Diálogo: IANC centers on the regional navies’ responsibility to combat drug trafficking and other related crimes. Why is it important for naval forces to unite to face these common threats?

Adm. Leal Ferreira: First, we must understand that the consequences of these crimes are not limited to a state, but extend to all. Within our continent some countries are producers, great consumers, and others serve as transit areas for drugs to reach overseas markets. In some way, the problem affects us all and we have a responsibility to fight it. Foreign trade is extremely dependent on maritime transportation and illegal trafficking is no different. Sailboats, fishing boats, container ships, and other vessels distribute drugs around the world. The work of navies and other law enforcement entities in oceans and inland waters prove essential.

It is also important to consider that drug trafficking generates numerous financial transactions and is associated with other types of transnational crimes, such as arms trafficking, money laundering, etc. Drug traffickers who have large investment capacities can reinvent themselves, with innovative strategies and tactics to escape government forces. Therefore, only through long-term and dynamic exchange of intelligence, constant equipment and process updates, and international cooperation, can we face the problem.

Diálogo: What interoperability operations does MB conduct with other institutions in the country to fight these scourges?

Adm. Leal Ferreira: In Brazil, the fight against these issues is primarily the Federal and state police’s responsibility. The Navy must support these institutions, above all with regard to logistics and intelligence. MB is present along rivers near the border, especially in the Amazon and its tributaries, as well as the Paraguay River. This is a joint activity with the Army, Air Force, and Federal Police. We can provide intelligence, service members, robust equipment, and logistics support. We also act as a joint force with several organizations along the coast. In the big cities, where narcotrafficking causes a higher level of violence, we guarantee law and order at the government’s request with Marine Corps personnel and armored vehicles in operations limited by space, time, and mission.

Diálogo: What is MB’s contribution to other naval forces in the region in the fight against transnational criminal organizations?

Adm. Leal Ferreira: We exchange intelligence and conduct multinational operations, where we try to share lessons learned and best practices. We participate in large exercises, such as PANAMAX, where we standardize doctrinal processes, apply safe communication networks, and learn to work together, optimizing resources and taking maximum advantage of each navy’s acquired expertise.

Diálogo: Specifically referring to drug trafficking, illicit activities, and terrorism, what is currently the most important activity MB performs?

Adm. Leal Ferreira: We have an extensive maritime coast and river network near neighboring countries. Our land border in the northern region is large and difficult to access, with a dense forest. Therefore, it is very difficult to fight crime without intelligence that enables resource optimization and adequate positioning. Taking that into consideration, MB will activate the Integrated Maritime Security Center in November. Its purpose is to increase maritime situational awareness, establish agreements with national and international government organizations, agencies, and with the maritime community, to share information on maritime trafficking. This will enable a more precise use of our resources, as well as a better understanding of the entire logistics chain that involves illegal trafficking.

Diálogo: This was the fifth time that MB participated in exercise Obangame Express 2018, in the Gulf of Guinea. Which interoperability operations did MB conduct during the exercise?

Adm. Leal Ferreira: In this edition, Brazil was responsible for Area of Operations A, which extended through the waters of Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo. The 2018 edition featured the participation of African, European, and American navies and agencies, with a total of 31 countries. African navies highlighted the opportunity to observe materials and techniques boarding teams use. The exercise sought to assess and improve the capacity to implement international maritime law, expanding the participation of countries signatory to the Yaoundé Code of Conduct through the implementation of a maritime security regional strategy in Central and Western Africa, and creating partnerships among the 20 countries that signed the code.

Diálogo: What kind of joint and combined operations does MB conduct with the United States?

Adm. Leal Ferreira: We take part in UNITAS and UNITAS Amphibious to train squadron units in combined operations with resources from the U.S. Navy and other navies invited; and PANAMAX, with a focus on doctrinal exchange and general staff intervention. We also work alongside the U.S. Navy in Obangame Express.

Diálogo: MB created an opportunity for women to reach the rank of admiral, paving the way for their participation in combat activities. Has MB achieved success with gender inclusion?

Adm. Leal Ferreira: MB is an institution that pays special attention to social changes and the admission of women into the Naval School’s officer training courses is one such example. This was possible because the Navy was prepared—in 1980, MB was a pioneer within the Brazilian Armed Forces for the inclusion of women. Today we have more than 8,000 women, occupying positions such as doctors, dentists, and health support, representing more than 50 percent of the work force. For years, female service members embarked on oceanographic vessels, polar ships, the Brazilian Navy Training Ship, hospital ships, and even on squadron and district ships, in an operational capacity. Service members, regardless of gender, are also ready to fulfill any mission because they have values required of professionals, such as dedication, accountability, selflessness, constant sacrifice, and a search for technical professional improvement, among others.