Deployment of Brazil military forces.

3 May 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil is deploying more than 8,500 troops to the far reaches of the Amazon rain forest this month in an operation aimed at cracking down on drug smuggling, gold mining and illegal deforestation, officials said.

The troop mobilization sends a clear message ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which is scheduled to take place here in June, that Brazil is taking steps to assert greater control over its porous frontiers in the Amazon. Soldiers are being sent to border areas near Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana and Guyana.

“The Amazon is Brazil’s No. 1 priority from a strategic viewpoint, given its importance to humanity as a source of water, biodiversity, and food production,” Gen. Eduardo Dias da Costa Villas Boas, chief of the Amazon Military Command, said in a telephone interview.

The operation, expected to last several weeks, showed its first results on Thursday when officials announced the detection of 10 clandestine airstrips in the state of Roraima. The airstrips were being used for illegal mining operations on indigenous territory, General Villas Boas said. […]

In addition to scourges like illegal timber extraction and deforestation for producing pig iron, drug smuggling from neighboring countries has emerged as a big concern. In Amazonian cities like Belém do Pará, use of a cheap variety of crack cocaine has surged, alarming public health officials.

At the same time that lawmakers have carried out a contentious debate over legislation creating new rules for land use in the Amazon for agriculture and ranching, Brazilian military officials have reached out to neighboring countries in an effort to strengthen ties and share information. […]

Brazil Sending More Troops to Guard Amazon Borders



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