Brazil’s Plan to Use Unmanned Vehicles to Fight Smugglers Ruffles Neighbors Feathers

VANT, VT-15 Brazil wants to use unmanned air vehicles, VANT, along the border areas of neighboring countries, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay and Colombia in order to catch smugglers of drugs, weapons and other goods. 

Currently a VANT, VT-15, developed by the Brazilian Army Technological Center, based on Israeli technology, is overflying the Brazilian/Paraguayan border line, while negotiations are going on with Paraguayan authorities, according to the daily newspaper O Globo from Rio.

The purpose of the VANT flights is not only to protect the Brazilian rivers’ coastline but also monitor Paraguayan rivers’ particularly trying to detect clandestine docks and piers used by smugglers as well as marijuana cultivations, quite common in the area.

O Globo reports that the governments of Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay have said they are willing to consider the Brazilian request, but not the Colombians.

Apparently the issue has already been addressed with Paraguayan and Uruguayan authorities. In the case of Paraguay, Brazilian Minister of Justice Luiz Paulo Barreto has spoken about it directly with President Fernando Lugo.

Paraguayan officials have admitted that they are willing to authorize VANT over flights along the border areas and shared water courses but Brazil must promise to hand a copy of all the intelligence gathered over Paraguayan territory.

Apparently the Brazilian government wants a detailed charter of the border area with Paraguay to pin point marijuana and other narcotics plantations, and clandestine ports used by smugglers to contraband drugs, arms and merchandise into Brazilian territory.

“The VT-15 will enable both countries to better coordinate and combat narcotics and other illegal activities,” according to sources quoted by O Globo.

Brazil is preparing to host several international events, World Cup in 2014, Americas Cup 2015 and the Olympic Games in 2016, for which it has begun a clean up operation in the hundreds of favelas (shantytowns) that surround mainly the city of Rio de Janeiro and are infested with organized crime.

Currently federal and state special forces with support from Army sharp shooters, helicopters, armored vehicles and naval logistics have taken some of the most dangerous favelas after several days of fighting.

President Lula and president-elect Dilma Rousseff openly support the operation and have promised to keep the troops for at least six months to ensure drug dealers are smoked out from among the millions that live in the favelas.

Intelligence reports have followed the narcotics trail mainly to Paraguay and Bolivia, as well as the heavy weapons some of the criminal gangs are armed with.

Police helicopters operating in the favelas carry special belly armored defenses to protect them from ground shooters.

Nevertheless the gangs have managed to down a couple of helicopters, one recently killing several special forces sharpshooters, and the other with a propelled rocket which was tracked to smugglers from the Paraguayan border.

O Globo finally points out that negotiations can be difficult since there is the very sensitive issue of “sovereignty”, but all indicates that “with Paraguay it’s a closed deal.” 




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