Brazil’s efforts to combat drug trafficking and organized crime by reinforcing border security have not been effective enough, say police, highlighting the difficulty of securing a massive border that touches all of the continent’s major drug producers.
Oslain Santana, head of the Brazilian police’s organized crime unit, said Brazil’s “Strategic Border Plan” had seen results, but more needed to be done, reported O Globo.
Santana highlighted the need for more intelligence work to determine who was trafficking and buying drugs in the major consumer markets of the southeast, south and northeast of the country. “The flow of drugs passes through the border… but it’s destined for the [internal] consumer market,” he said.
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Professor Alcides Vaz of the Universidade de Brasilia’s International Relations Institute attributed the continued difficulties in controlling the borders to “structural problems,” including the sheer size of the border, the strength of crime and institutional weaknesses in the border states. To deal with these issues, the government has been increasing security investment in the country’s 11 border states, reported O Globo.
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Brazil’s approximately 17,000 kilometer border touches Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia, South America’s three coca-producing nations, and Paraguay, the continent’s biggest marijuana producer. The country also hosts a major drug consumer market and serves as a common jump-off point for cocaine shipments destined for Europe, making its porous borders prime drug trafficking territory.
In the face of this geographical vulnerability, President Dilma Rousseff named border security as her government’s top priority. Since July 2011, the administration has pumped funds and equipment into the Strategic Border Plan, and on multiple occasions, the president has highlighted the success of the initiative.
The plan has also involved border security agreements with countries including Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela, but has simultaneously provoked tensions with neighbors concerned that the initiative may infringe on their sovereignty.
Brazil’s aggressive interdiction, surveillance and eradication campaigns bear comparison to the strategies employed and supported by the United States. As the continent’s rising economic giant, Brazil likely feels a similar threat posed by foreign crime and a need to exert its authority.
However, the focus on closing borders does not address the country’s numerous internal security problems, including powerful and increasingly transnational prison gangs and rising violence outside its major cities. It also fails to address the institutional weaknesses that have allowed violence and crime to proliferate.