A New Vision for Information Sharing in the Southern Cone

Interview with the deputy chief of operational intelligence of Brazil’s Naval Operations Command, Rear Admiral Almir Garnier Santos DIÁLOGO STAFF
Print | 1 April 2012

The U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) is located in Key West, Florida. [JIATF-S]

In July 2010, the Navy’s commandant, Admiral Júlio Soares de Moura Neto, told Diálogo that Brazil is working with the Federal Police to establish a regional command and an information exchange with the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) and other international bodies. The resulting entity would be like JIATF-S, which is based in Key West, Florida, and would focus on the transregional fight against the illegal drug trade. Such an information exchange, he said, is essential in the fight against drug trafficking. A year later, Diálogo returned to Rio de Janeiro to continue the discussion of regional cooperation, information sharing and the creation of a regional command for South America with Rear Admiral Almir Garnier Santos, Brazil’s deputy chief of operational intelligence of the Naval Operations Command.

Rear Adm. Almir Garnier Santos, deputy chief of operational intelligence of Brazil’s Naval Operations Command [WAGNER ASSIS]

The Naval Operations Comm- and, a component of the Brazilian Navy, focuses on the full range of naval power, including surface fleet, submarine fleet and naval aviation. It accounts for 63 percent of the Navy’s men and women. One of the command’s functions is to support the National Public Security Force in the fight against drug trafficking.

Diálogo: Do you agree with Adm. Moura Neto on the importance of exchanging information with the various agencies related to combating narcotrafficking in the region, such as JIATF-S?

Rear Admiral Almir Garnier Santos: Yes, the exchange of information is essential, considering that this duty involves other sectors in addition to the Brazilian Navy and the Ministry of Defense. In recent years, our society has called for support of public safety agencies by the Brazilian Armed Forces in the fight against drug trafficking. The federal government, always through the Ministry of Defense, determines that the Armed Forces participate in support of the Security Forces. For this purpose, the creation of an organization along the lines of JIATF-S would facilitate coordination and information exchange.

Diálogo: How do you think that this would be possible?

Rear Adm. Garnier: A joint initiative is already in place that includes the presidency of the republic, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Justice. Its purpose is the integration of the public-safety agencies and the Armed Forces to fight crime in general, and drug trafficking in particular. This is, shall we say, a new vision. Not that the Armed Forces were not involved in this before, but today there’s a greater perception of the need for this, of its significance.

We’re currently conducting operations along the borders. The [Brazilian] Navy is participating in the 9th Naval District command in Manaus with other Armed Forces and public-safety agencies near the border to establish agreements with neighboring countries. Within that context, it’s possible to combine the knowledge, specialties, areas of competence, and the jurisdiction of all these agencies in a place that’s favorable for exchanging information and in order to facilitate decision making and maintaining a consistent, clearer tactical framework to optimize the deployment of our resources. The Brazilian Navy is therefore committed to this idea and already has a cooperation agreement signed with JIATF-S.

Diálogo: Can you further discuss this agreement?

Rear Adm. Garnier: This agreement is basically divided into four phases: exchange of knowledge; exchange of techniques, tactics and procedures; identification of mechanisms for the exchange of information and to conduct combined operations with other navies; and the establishment of an interagency coordination center.

Diálogo: And would this center be a kind of JIATF-S for South America?

Rear Adm. Garnier: You could say that, in reference to Brazil. At this time, there’s a cooperation agreement being implemented between the Brazilian Navy and JIATF-S. We’re not going to stop being Armed Forces; the Brazilian Navy is not going to turn into a police security force, because it’s a navy with the role of preserving the Brazilian state’s interests in the Blue Amazon [maritime area that covers the Brazilian Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf], and in the South Atlantic, as a whole, and also in more remote locations, such as Haiti and Lebanon, in terms of peacekeeping operations within the aegis of the U.N.

In Haiti we have a contingent of Marines embedded within MINUSTAH [U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti] forces, and in Lebanon, beyond the command of the Maritime Task Force [MTF-U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon], we have the frigate União.

The Brazilian Navy is responsible for a maritime area equivalent to half of the Brazilian territory, in addition to search and rescue operations in a large territory for safekeeping human life at sea. The presence of the Brazilian Navy with adequate means for this job, then, is paramount. It cannot just close its eyes to this evil that is corroding society today, which is drug trafficking, and our [Brazilian Navy] commandant is committed to this.

Diálogo: What happens when the Brazilian Navy has to take action in a region that’s not along the border?

Rear Adm. Garnier: If we need to fight drug trafficking in a port region, for example, we have to have the support of the Federal Revenue Office, the Federal Police, etc. The Brazilian Air Force supports us with long-range maritime patrol aircraft. All these organizations and their resources must come together in a coordinated manner; certainly, the best way to work jointly is an interagency organization such as JIATF-S.

Diálogo: Is there an effective exchange of information and technology when there are joint actions between Brazil and other countries in the region?

Rear Adm. Almir Garnier Santos, deputy chief of operational intelligence of Brazil’s Naval Operations Command [WAGNER ASSIS]

Rear Adm. Garnier: That exchange exists, but it’s a process that requires mutual trust. Trust is acquired over time, like in a marriage …

Diálogo: … And the “old married couples”?

Rear Adm. Garnier: Brazil has been operating with the U.S. Navy for many decades. With UNITAS [a multination naval exercise] alone, it’s been 52 years. There are exchanges of technology, procedures, etc., in place with the Americans, and in some ways, Brazil seeks to reproduce this same model with other countries as well. Luckily, it’s easier between navies, because they all operate in the same environment.

Diálogo: But there’s the extent of the borders ...

Rear Adm. Garnier: True, but the characteristics are similar. The difficulties, and at the same time, the ways of making things easier that exist at sea are common to all navies. On land, however, it’s not the same. There are countries that specialize in desert operations; others specialize in jungle operations, and so on

Diálogo: What are the new drug-trafficking routes in the region?

Rear Adm. Garnier: In Brazil, there was a substantial shift in drug-trafficking routes after the implementation of the so-called “Take-Down Law” [Lei do Abate]. Many air routes were transformed into land routes or multimodal land and river routes, and so on.

Diálogo: In recent years, the Brazilian Navy helped the African country of Namibia to create its Navy. How did this process take place?

Rear Adm. Garnier: There were transfers of ships and officer trainings at our academies [Naval Academy, Almirante Silvio de Camargo Instruction Center and Almirante Miliciades Portela Alves Instruction Center] to start their Navy and even their Marine Corps. We also designated Brazilian crews to help them train in the use of vessels with a naval military focus, for example.

Diálogo: Are there other similar cases in Latin America?

Rear Adm. Garnier: There have been other transfers, for example, from the Brazilian Navy to the Uruguayan Navy. With the Argentine Navy, for many years, when our aircraft carrier Minas Gerais was still operational, the Brazilian Navy conducted operations near Puerto Belgrano, so they could perform takeoffs and landings, because they wanted to keep their naval pilots as qualified as possible.

In other words, it was a good exchange of experiences, which I think is the first of its kind in the world, and which continued after incorporating the NAe São Paulo aircraft carrier. We’ve repaired Argentine submarines in the Navy’s shipyard in Rio de Janeiro, for example.

Ships from the U.S. Navy itself and from other Southern Cone navies come here during UNITAS to train in shooting at land targets, on our Alcatrazes Island, because it’s difficult to have a target island nowadays.

There have also been positive exchanges with the navies of Chile, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru, the latter two with a broader focus on fluvial environments. I believe that all these navies, in operating with the Brazilian Navy, grow together with us. The same way that we learn from them, they certainly learn from us.

JIATF-S: Heading the Fight Against Drug Trafficking

Based in sunny Key West, on the southernmost tip of Florida, the United States Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) leads an international battle to combat illicit trafficking in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. During the last two decades, JIATF-S has created a tight network of intelligence, military and law enforcement assets in support of the fight by national and partner nations against drug trafficking and other narcoterrorist-related threats.

Today, this network encompasses all five branches of the U.S. Military and government law enforcement agencies (Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, among others), as well as liaison officers from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom. Through information sharing and close interagency cooperation, this task force, a component of the U.S. Southern Command, has proven to be successful in conducting detection, monitoring, interdiction and apprehension operations in support of national and partner nations’ fights against drug traffickers.

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