Brazil, Bolivia Launch Joint Anti-Narco Operation

Photo by AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images

Bolivia and Brazil have agreed to a joint plan to fight criminal gangs that operate on their shared jungle border, long porous for drug and arms traffickers.

The decision was made at a Brasilia meeting between Brazil’s Justice Minister Osmar Serraglio and Bolivia’s Government Minister Carlos Romero on May 13. The plan includes establishment of new border checkpoints in the Bolivian outposts of Bella Vista and Puerto Evo and the Brazilian villages of Costa Marques and Plácido de Castro.

It establishes mechanisms for sharing intelligence and operations to secure control of air-space over the border zone. It also calls for joint military training between the two countries. 

It’s slightly ironic that we learn of this through a report from Cuba’s Prensa Latina news service. Prensa Latina is typically (and appropriately) critical of U.S.-led anti-drug militarization in Latin America.

However, Bolivia, and to an extent Brazil, have governments that have been close to Havana—although the political right now has the upper hand in the crisis that has been shaking Brazil for months.

But there are growing signs that Bolivia, having booted the DEA in 1988, is seeking new partners in drug-war militarization.

In 2011, Brazil began supplying Bolivia with anti-drug aid, including drones for border surveillance. Just last October, Bolivia and Russia signed a pact for bilateral military cooperation. And last year, Bolivia launched a new “anti-imperialist” military school in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, as an alternative to the Pentagon’s School of the Americas.

Despite moves toward a more progressive drug policy in recent years, including a new law doubling the territory open to legal coca cultivation, Bolivia has continued to see sporadic clashes between cocaleros and government eradication forces.

We hope that for Bolivia’s struggling coca growers and jungle residents caught between traffickers and security forces, it isn’t going to start looking like a case of “meet the new boss.”

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