Brazil’s Border Problem

Brazil is the largest country in South America with a border that totals 10,000 miles. The country is located next to the world’s three primary cocaine producers – Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru – which has surely influenced Brazil in becoming the #2 country in cocaine consumption, right behind the United States (Reuter’s). With the rise in cocaine usage, border control has inevitably become a primary focus for Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. Recently Rousseff announced that he would be spending more than $8 billion to address the drug epidemic in Brazil.

Brazil’s border is immense.

It is five times larger than the United States-Mexico border, including miles of Amazon jungle and bumping up to ten different countries. Monitoring this enormous border to control the import of drugs into Brazil is an undertaking that seems nearly impossible. It is hard to imagine where one would begin, particularly when securing the entire US-Mexico border has not been possible. How do you find enough men to patrol the border? If you don’t have enough manpower to patrol the entire border, how do you protect the gaps in coverage? Obviously building a wall would not be a viable solution…

Though money is being poured into controlling Brazil’s borders, the results simply aren’t there.

There is not enough bandwidth to support the action that those such as Rousseff are promising to the Brazilian people. A major issue is that 6,000 miles of the Brazilian border is rivers which flow through thick jungles, making it extremely easy for drug traffickers and drug mules to get the product into the country.

Interestingly enough, Brazil has not had a history of protecting its borders. The number of undocumented immigrants in Brazil is unknown, but the number could be anywhere from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. The little protection of Brazil’s borders in the past has ultimately led to an increase in organized crime and drug use. Brazil has seen a rise in “cracolandias” (crack lands) where hundreds of people gather to use crack publicly, often in front of authorities. Due to the amount of people in these cracolandias, authorities are unable to effectively control the crowd and disperse these gatherings.

Change is slow.

Rousseff has promised to designate funds towards protecting Brazil’s borders from drug traffickers, but no real money has been put into beefing up security checkpoints. None of the checkpoints have x-ray machines or scanners and drug sniffing dogs are rarely used. However, Rousseff still promises big changes in technology to begin pushing back on drug trafficking and smugglers. Brazil is aiming to use drones, which are used for the country’s defense, to detect boats and people crossing Brazil’s borders. Riverboat radar systems and other technology are due to be acquired to battle smugglers. In addition, Brazil is attempting to take the war against drugs to other countries, particularly those where drugs are produced, much like the efforts of the United States in Latin America (Reuter’s).

Reuters/Brazilian Federal Police/Handout

The question is whether these changes will make a difference.

This seems to be the global outstanding question regarding the international war on drugs. Many are critical of the efforts being made to secure Brazil’s borders. There may be an increase in border security, but this will not end the demand. Despite any barriers put in front of them, smugglers will find a way. We can see this reflected in the amount of drugs coming into the United States every year. Even though the United States makes enormous efforts to prevent drugs from crossing borders, there is no significant effect on the international drug trade. Drugs continue to make their way to users. As long as the demand is there, the drugs will follow en suite.

Only time will tell if Brazil’s money and effort to control their borders will be worth it in the end. As legalization is not even a consideration for President Rousseff, this may be the only option if the government wants to control the problem.

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