By Samuel Elliott Novacich, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week the Brazilian Federal Government inaugurated the country’s first Integrated Border Management Office (Gabinete de Gestão Integrada de Fronteira, GGI-F) during an event at Iguazu Falls, in the State of Paraná. A day later, the second such GGI-F office was inaugurated in Corumbá, in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. These inaugurations signify increased federal commitment to the fight against drug trafficking, both domestically and along international borders.
Presiding over the implementation of these initiatives, Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo affirmed that the federal government will not limit efforts to curb drug trafficking along the border, rather highlighting the importance of federal, state, and municipal cooperation, stating “integration is the key word. We are all in this together. Whether to lose, or to win.”
In March of last year, the Federal Police launched Operation Sentinel (Operação Sentinela), a frontier intelligence building initiative that combined participants from the Armed Forces, Public Security National Force, Brazilian Revenue Administration, Railroad Police, and Civil and Military Police from the states of Paraná, Amazonas, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Amapá, Rondônia, Santa Catarina and the Federal District.
The operation has been applauded for increasing law enforcement intelligence of transnational organized crime, and up until the end of last year was responsible for the arrest of approximately 330 individuals.
Though efforts have been increased, border control remains a logistical challenge for Brazil. The international land border stretches for 16,886 kilometers along ten different South American countries. Of that border, over half, approximately 9,700 kilometers are defined by minimally patrolled, dense forest. These sections of the border are porous for not only the illegal traffic of drugs, but of illegal arms, contraband, and unlawful immigration.
Of illegal activity along the border, drug trafficking represents federal law enforcement’s greatest concern. Last year, of the 272 significant actions taken by the Federal Police throughout the country, 71 pertained directly to drug trafficking, by far the highest percentage.
A significant portion of illegal drugs consumed in Brazil come from outside of the country. Cocaine and its derivatives generally enter Brazil from Bolivia or Peru, the two largest producers of the drug, while marijuana, if not produced domestically, usually comes from Paraguay.
The motivation for increased attention to border security can be credited in part to the appearance of a new drug in Brazil, the cocaine-derived “oxi” or “oxidado” (rust).
Similar to crack, the drug is even cheaper and more addictive. Composed mostly of cocaine, oxi has been found to include either gasoline or kerosene, acetone, and even battery fluid. Though the drug spread rapidly throughout the country, its point of entry has been traced to Acre, a state in the northwest of Brazil that shares a border with both Bolivia and Peru.
As attention has increased along the border, the Federal Police have remained alert throughout the interior of Brazil, focusing on the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, and Rio de Janeiro. Valdinho Caetano, of the Federal Police, explains: “It’s natural that these five [states] represent the majority of operations…they are the biggest in Brazil, and as such, we’ve been most effective in these regions.”