Brazil Treads Lightly as a New Drone Power

Brazil Treads Lightly as a New Drone Power

U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent speech on America’s use of drones in the conflict with al-Qaida and its affiliates marked his administration’s first real attempt to explain a program that has generated much domestic criticism and international outcry. By contrast, few have taken notice of Brazil’s increasing use of surveillance drones, which it has been dispatching over its vast borderlands in an effort to control illegal immigration, contraband and smuggling. So far, Brazil’s drone initiative has not generated as much political controversy as Obama’s program. Nevertheless, President Dilma Rousseff’s administration must tread lightly lest it offend bordering nations that carefully guard their sovereignty.

An industrial and aerospace powerhouse, Brazil has begun to manufacture its own drones, though the country also imports some of the remotely controlled aircraft from Israel. Recently, Brazil’s drone program was placed in the international spotlight when the government announced it would deploy two unmanned aerial vehicles over Rio and Brasilia during the opening and closing of the Confederations Cup soccer tournament later this month. The drones, which are fitted with cameras, radars and sensors, will monitor the tournament in tandem with other security efforts.

Though the move garnered attention because of its domestic implications, Brazilian drones have been deployed to monitor the country’s frontiers since 2011 with less fanfare. Brazil is particularly concerned about its common border with Bolivia, which is vulnerable to organized crime. In La Paz, the Morales government has given Brazil the green light to send its reconnaissance drones over Bolivian airspace in an effort to monitor the cocaine trade. Bolivia is the world’s third-largest producer of cocaine, and officials claim that a whopping 60 percent of the country’s cocaine production is sent to Brazil. Bolivia’s top anti-drug official recently credited Brazil’s drones for enabling a series of recent blows against traffickers, and authorities report having destroyed more than 200 drug labs along the Brazilian border.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review