South American Navies Strengthen the Fight Against Organized Crime

South American Navies Strengthen the Fight Against Organized Crime

By Eduardo Szklarz / Diálogo
December 03, 2019

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Paraguay was the host country for exercise Acrux IX, which helped counter arms and human trafficking through the Paraguay-Paraná waterway.

The navies of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay increased their regional cooperation against organized crime with combined exercise Acrux IX, held in Puerto Rosario, Paraguay, September 24-27, 2019. Officers of the Argentine Navy took part as observers.

“Transnational organized crime rings are increasingly taking advantage of the heavy flow of vessels along the Paraguay-Paraná waterway — which has the third largest riverine multimodal fleet in the world ‑— to smuggle arms, their parts, ammunition, explosives, drugs, and people,” Paraguayan Navy Captain Oscar Antonio Girardoni Centurión, commander the Combined Riverine Task Force during Acrux IX, told Diálogo.

“As such, navies and naval forces that monitor the waterway must continuously train to confront criminals effectively, using a common doctrine and language,” said Capt. Girardoni.

In total, 13 surface units, two fixed-wing and two rotary-wing aircraft, as well as 620 service members participated in the event, including land vehicles for logistics support.

“The combined exercise helps keep combat power operational,” Capt. Girardoni said. “It also encourages mutual trust and collaboration among countries to fight against threats that affect regional security.”

Irregular Force
The scenario for Acrux IX was the existence of an irregular force pretending to be an environmental nongovernmental organization in the Puerto Rosario area located 31 miles north of Asunción. The members of the organization were shipping weapons and drugs on vessels navigating in the area.

During the exercise, service members conducted reconnaissance, security for the Floating Combat Base, and updated available data. Their duties led them to confirm the existence of an irregular force engaged in storing drugs, ready to be shipped to ports overseas.

“Before the last phase of the exercise, participants conducted riverine operations, convoy formation, river blocking, tactical communications, floating base defense, amphibious operations, reconnaissance, and night and day incursions in land bases,” said Capt. Girardoni.

“On September 26, we conducted the final assault on the target, with a naval aviation gunfire drill, naval gunfire support, and combined riverine assault with Marine Corps troops,” he added.

Since its inception in 1999, Acrux has acquired growing relevance. Today, the exercise is fundamental to coordinate operations against forces that might endanger freedom of navigation in the Paraguay-Paraná waterway.

“The exercise increases mutual confidence and interoperability between the navies and naval components in order to confront the threats affecting regional stability, particularly transnational organized crime,” Capt. Girardoni concluded.