Suriname Intensifies Military, Security Cooperation With Neighboring Brazil
By Dialogo August 13, 2013
PARAMARIBO — Suriname has received two Urutu armored vehicles that had been sent to neighboring Brazil for repairs, as part of a bilateral defense cooperation agreement that took effect in 2012.
“They’re as good as new,” said Surinamese Defense Minister Lamure Latour. The Brazilian-made vehicles underwent a total overhaul under the supervision of the Brazilian Army. Two more armored vehicles, known as Cascavels, are still in Brazil and wil be returned to Suriname by November.
“This was the first project under that agreement,” said Lt. Colonel Angelo Brait Júnior, Brazil’s military attaché in Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital. “The Urutus and Cascavels were in a bad state of disrepair and needed urgent attention.”
The four tanks were part of a large cache of army material Suriname bought from Brazil in the early 1980s. The pride of the army, these tactical army vehicles played a strategic role in the so-called Interior War that raged in the country’s inlands, but in recent years their condition deteriorated to the point where they sat immobile at the army barracks.
Surinamese army mechanics to train in Brazil
In Brazil, these vehicles got a second shot at life. Repairs focused on the interior, the engines and the armaments.
This type of vehicle was made in Brazil and we know best how to maintain them. That kind of knowledge is nowhere else to find. Our mechanics understood right away what the problems were,” Brait said.
“Suriname’s army has many Brazilian-manufactured vehicles including jeeps, trucks and buses for personnel transport and civil operations,” he said, adding that repairing the vehicles was easy, but transporting them back and forth was a challenge.
“The only way to get them to Brazil and back to Suriname was on the same ship that we use for logistical support to our troops that take part in the United Nations Stabilization Mission for Haiti (MINUSTAH).
Partnership extends to border security
The Urutus were handed over at a June 10 ceremony at the Memre Buku army headquarters in Paramaribo. During the event, Baumbach outlined the prospects for future bilateral military cooperation.
“The partnership between our countries is based on our geographic proximity, but also because our defense organizations should be able to tackle modern-day issues like human trafficking in cooperation,” the ambassador said.
Brait said that in addition to security matters, two Brazilian sports advisers are now attached to Suriname’s Defense Ministry.
“We are assisting Suriname with its first Staff Officers’ Course for Captains,” he said. “The results are very good. I have been attaché here for two years and I have personally witnessed a lot of advancement [in bilateral relations].
Brazil and Suriname also cooperate in border security matters. Suriname recently dispatched soldiers to its southern border, to complement efforts by Brazilian authorities to boost safety in the region. In July, Brazil’s Ministry of Defense sent 25,000 soldiers to patrol the country's borders in an unprecedented military operation.
Operation Ágata 7, as the mission is known, focuses on cross-border crimes like drug and weapons trafficking, smuggling, illegal immigration, illegal mining and human smuggling.
National security official Gerold Dompig told the press that Surinamese authorities have been keeping a close watch on the border as well.
“We sent men to the border because criminals might decide to cross over from Brazil, seeing that the Brazilian army is making it too hot for them,” he said.
Effort is part of general military overhaul
National Security Director Melvin Linscheer said Suriname is deploying its Border Management System, a $2.5 million project that was commissioned last year to register, identify and track incoming and departing travelers.
Brait said the further progress will be discussed in late August when Suriname hosts the first bilateral meeting between the two countries’ defense ministers.
The overhaul of the armored vehicles comes as Suriname boosts its armed forces in general. The government recently announced it would spend $2.4 million on armored vehicles for the nation’s army, police, customs and intelligence departments.
In July, Suriname took delivery of three fast boats for its Coast Guard unit now being set up to fight maritime crime. Soldiers were transferred from the Navy to form the initial Coast Guard staff, while a permanent crew undergoes training.
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