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Brazil sends troops to border to fight crime

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
10,000 soldiers and civilians are to be sent to the country's southern border region, Brazil's defense ministry said.
10,000 soldiers and civilians are to be sent to the country's southern border region, Brazil's defense ministry said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brazil sent nearly 10,000 troops and civilians to the southern border areas
  • It is part of a mission to combat crime
  • Forces are focusing on both large and smaller scale problems

(CNN) -- Nearly 10,000 troops and civilians have been deployed to Brazil's southern border region, in a show of force against illicit traffickers of all kinds who operate in the region, Brazil's defense ministry said.

The deployment is the fifth such surge under a mission to reassert rule of law in the border area known as Operation Agatha.

The most recent operation began on Monday and will continue through the end of the month, the defense ministry said.

The Brazilian Air Force alone had more than 434 service members working directly in the operation.

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"Our principal objective is to keep our air space from being used (for) illegal activities like drug trafficking and contraband," said Air Force mission commander Jose Geraldo Ferreira Malta.

In total, 25 planes will participate in intelligence-gathering and protection of air space, the air force said.

It is a three pronged strategy, Malta said, which includes direct confrontation with criminals, support to governmental bodies who work in the region, and support to the public in the form of health and cultural work.

Forces are present in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and are conducting operations along Brazil's borders with Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.

The targets are not just drug traffickers, however.

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According to the defense ministry, one of the targets is the sale of explosives to gangs that have robbed automatic teller machines.

Troops have even been deployed to relatively peaceful areas.

"Our region, compared with other parts of the border, is more amenable. Here we have reports of minor crimes, like trafficking of pesticides and stealing of animals. Drug trafficking is minimal," said an army leader, Gen. Joarez Alves Pereira Junior in a statement.

The Brazilian navy, army and air force are participating in the operation, along with police and civilian agencies.

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