Brazil is deploying police, soldiers and aircraft to patrol borders in its biggest drive ever to curb the smuggling of arms and drugs and prevent criminals from crossing country boundaries, Justice Minister Luiz Barreto said.
Operation Sentinel, a security drive on the borders with Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Paraguay, will continue for an indefinite period, Barreto said in an interview in Sao Paulo. Armed forces are exchanging intelligence with police and 1,433 officers and soldiers are monitoring roads, rivers and lakes.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sought to integrate efforts to fight crime in Latin America’s biggest economy as his policies stoke growth and the country prepares to host the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“Federal and state police are aligned in their strategies to fight organized crime,” the minister said. “There’s no end date for this operation.”
Lula last week authorized armed forces to deploy tanks, helicopters and 800 soldiers to Rio de Janeiro amid gang attacks that set more than 100 cars on fire across the beachside city in a week and shootings with police that killed at least 37 people. A 2,700-strong security force took over Rio’s biggest crime stronghold on Nov. 28, ending three decades of drug rule in the dozen hillside shanty towns known as Complexo do Alemao.
The takeover of the area was the first time state and federal police joined forces with the Army and Navy to fight crime in Rio slums.
Arrests and Seizures
On the borders, Operation Sentinel has arrested 1,649 people through October, the federal police department said in an e-mailed statement. The force has seized 55 metric tons of marijuana, about half a ton of cocaine, as well as 1,429 vehicles and 270 weapons.
Sao Paulo state’s police and federal officers are also coordinating to patrol roads linking Sao Paulo and Rio after the takeover of Alemao, Sao Paulo Urban Security Secretary Edsom Ortega said in an interview.
The federal roads police department is monitoring roads in the Northeast of Brazil to prevent criminals from escaping from Rio to the region, spokesman Alexandre Castilho said by telephone from Brasilia.