Sanitary Matters and Illegal Activities Prompt South America to Strengthen Border Controls

Sanitary Matters and Illegal Activities Prompt South America to Strengthen Border Controls

By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo
June 09, 2020

Brazil has the highest number of coronavirus infections in all of South America, which is almost four times higher than Peru, the second most affected country. To prevent borders from contributing to an increase in the spread of the virus, Brazil’s neighboring countries are seeking joint solutions to fight the pandemic.

On May 15, Brazil and Colombia agreed to strengthen military presence on both sides of the border, in the Amazon region. Amazonian states have the highest numbers of coronavirus infections in both Brazil and Colombia.

Colombia deployed additional service members to the land border with Brazil, which has been closed since March 17. “We decided to militarize all border crossing points to exercise respective controls and prevent incidences of cases from the transiting population,” said Colombian President Iván Duque.

Brazilian and Colombian authorities will create a special COVID-19 group in this part of the Amazon, with daily monitoring and information exchange, allowing each country to respect each other’s measures.

Brazil-Paraguay border closing

On May 21, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez said that he would maintain restrictions on the movement of people in the border area between Brazil and Paraguay to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus among Paraguayans. The measure will be in place for an indefinite period. The government is maintaining service members at different crossing points along the border and has set up barbwire fences in the Paraguayan city of Pedro Juan Caballero, a conurbation with the Brazilian town of Ponta Porã.

Brazilian and Paraguayan navies monitor water borders with ships and an aircraft. For the duration of the pandemic, both nations agreed not to share the Paraná River, which is common to both countries. As such, fishermen from each country have been requested to remain within their border limits.


Patrol operations intensified on the Brazilian side of the Brazil-Paraguay-Argentina tri-border region, not only to control the spread of COVID-19, but also to stop illegal activities. Service members are blocking roads and searching people, cars, and cargo vehicles. The Brazilian Army’s 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade coordinates the operation.

Borders between Argentina and Brazil have been closed since March 15. The countries haven’t set a reopening date.

Argentina and Paraguay are maintaining the transit of cargo trucks from Brazil. In Argentina, drivers must go through a road corridor with specific checkpoints for refueling and food. In Paraguay, truck drivers are not allowed to sleep outside of their vehicles if they haven’t delivered their merchandise on the same day.

Brazil and Uruguay

Rivera, a Uruguayan town that borders Brazil, is one of the crossings that remains closed as part of the policies of the Uruguayan government to contain the movement of people in areas shared by both countries.

Uruguayan service members and health personnel are working together to take the temperature of citizens and screen them for coronavirus. On May 25, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou announced that he was negotiating a health emergency binational agreement with Brazil.