Operation Ágata, the Brazilian Armed Forces’ largest operation directed at combating cross-border and environmental crimes, was restructured in 2017 and is now being carried out in parts, as Brazilian Minister of Defense Raul Jungmann announced when launching the Integrated Border Protection Program in November 2016. Operation Ágata-Curare IX, held June 19th to 23rd in the states of Rondônia and Acre, is an example of this new operational method.
“Since the border area for Operation Curare corresponds to part of the area for Operation Ágata, the Amazon Military Command (CMA, per its Portuguese acronym) decided that all operations conducted at the border must use the prefix Operation Ágata,” Brazilian Army Major General José Eduardo Leal de Oliveira, the commander of the 17th Jungle Infantry Brigade explained. The brigade, a CMA unit, is responsible for the region bordering Bolivia and Peru.
Four battalions and one jungle infantry company, coordinated by the 17th Jungle Infantry Brigade (known as Príncipe da Beira Brigade), deployed their personnel in Operation Ágata-Curare IX, with approximately 1,200 service members participating. Thirteen government agencies were involved in the operation, including the Federal Highway Police, the Federal Police, the Acre State Military Police, and the National Indian Foundation.
Land and river patrol operations, aerial surveillance, vehicle and boat inspections, and personnel searches were conducted along an approximately 2,700-kilometer strip of the border with Bolivia and Peru. Those two countries, together with Colombia, are the world’s three major cocaine producers, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
A fine filter
Service members used two helicopters, 77 vehicles, and 25 vessels to inspect 121 boats, canoes, and power boats, and nearly 3,500 vehicles, including cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles. More than 300 people traveling on highways in the region were searched. In addition, six unidentified aircraft were intercepted during the operation.
The operations resulted in the seizure of two cars, two trucks, two tractors, 13 motorcycles, and two vessels. Also seized were 215 grams of drugs and 5,155.7 cubic meters of wood. Through the disruption of smuggling — a crime in which an individual tries to evade the nation’s taxation process — items valued at approximately $25,000were recovered. Sixteen arrest warrants were issued to criminals caught red-handed.
The service members also conducted 164 land patrols, 38 river patrols, and 12 aerial surveillance patrols. These actions are intended to modernize the setting where border teams operate.
Operation Ágata-Curare IX began its activities on June 19th by surprise and with no set end date. “This strategy aims to deny an exact end date to those who commit crimes of any kind, so that they don’t go back to committing them,” Maj. Gen. Leal stated.
The operation concluded four days after it began and was followed by operations Curaretinga and Escudo, which have the same objective as Operation Ágata-Curare, but are smaller in scope, as they are restricted to the border battalions’ area of responsibility. In the case of Operation Escudo, these activities have been ongoing since January 2017.
Stepping up the state’s presence along Brazil’s national borders is a government priority that is primarily aimed at preventing the entry of drugs and weapons into the country. Having witnessed the problems caused by the illegal practices associated with the commercialization of these products on both sides of the border, the countries affected are trying to foster a joint effort to tackle cross-border crimes.
Days before the start of Operation Ágata-Curare IX, which was limited to Brazilian territory, Minister Jungmann met with Bolivian Minister of Defense Reymi Luis Ferreira Justiniano in Rondônia to address this issue. “No country may be able to solve the problems of large-scale criminality in its own national territory or space. We have no way of doing so. We will not be able to solve our problems unless we build partnerships and institutions able to cope with the issue of transnational crime on a permanent basis,” Minister Jungmann stated at the meeting.
As for his agenda with the Bolivian minister, Jungmann said that “we have settled on some joint operations, and we have set a date for a meeting that will address all of the areas in which we may be able to work together to combat these crimes.” Minister Ferreira added to that by saying, “This meeting is a continuation of a previous meeting to set the terms of a partnership for combating cross-border crime. We expect to work out the terms of cooperation at a meeting in La Paz.”
As noted by Jungmann, the intent is to organize a meeting in the Bolivian capital that will not only include armed forces and defense representatives from both countries but also professionals from their public safety and intelligence agencies. Bringing together expertise from the different defense, security, and intelligence organizations, as well as cooperating and integrating with neighboring countries, are directives set forth by the Integrated Border Protection Program as ways of bolstering prevention, monitoring, inspection, and suppression of cross-border crimes.