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Column 101512 Brewer

Monday, October 15, 2012

Enhancing Border Security is a Challenge in the Americas

By Jerry Brewer

It is a profound statement to claim that border security throughout the Americas, the Western Hemisphere, does not effectively exist. Yet it is, in fact, a sobering correct assertion.

The hemisphere is an environment of ever-involving risks that continue to be manifest in thousands of record setting violent deaths, and transnational organized criminal insurgencies. The ferocity knows no borders. 

The United States is not exempt from this scourge, albeit the death toll has eluded matching similarities. Although the wealth of the U.S., and its strength in capable law enforcement institutions, is fundamentally inherent, critical challenges exist that seriously impact safety and pose risks to many.

Further south, the domino effect for Mexico's border security failures with Guatemala, and Guatemala's with Honduras, filters as far south as Brazil. Last week, Brazil sent 7,500 troops to its borders with Bolivia and Peru "to combat criminal operations."

All of this cancer-like criminal insurgency is a recipe for further disaster.

Border patrols and security strategies must remain focused on the appropriate and meticulous attention and proper allocation of available resources for both short and long term goals. There must be a viable border strategy that consistently addresses evolving border threats and aggressively challenges the weaknesses.

Lessons learned, investing in proven technology, and joint integrated engagements against transnational organized crime are collectively productive strategies. Appropriate intelligence sharing plays a necessary coordinating tool that allows a strategic and fluid process of unified efforts against a common enemy that routinely crosses borders.

An effective border strategy will be one that is properly assessed to meet security and safety needs, and to adequately determine system requirements to sustain secure regions or the allocated span of control desired. This strategy must be able to provide coverage to the type of terrain and geographical topography of the border jurisdictional limits.

Many of the northern cone nations of Central America could benefit immensely with the acquisition of advanced security technologies as to pipelines and chokepoints to and from drug producing nations, to illicit demand users, and the massive profits from currency flowing back in payments. As well, huge profits make crime a hybrid with organized crime gangsters using terror strategies and tactics to threaten, coerce and control, as actual terrorists could use the means of organized crime to endure.

A number of the Central American nations have begun to see what took Mexico a significant amount of time to understand -- that the violence and murder with impunity were not all about cartel versus cartel and rival wars for drug routes, but too out and out acts of terror to instil fear and establish control over the citizenry. As did Mexico, they have witnessed violent, barbaric and sadistic rituals of torture and murder by transnational organized criminals that traffic in drugs and humans, murder migrants, control land, bribe or murder officials, and destroy any form of the rule of law as they terrorize nations. And too, as in Mexico, the military became their only effective tool with which to fight back.

In order to establish a framework for understanding the threats and dangers -- including terrorism -- nations in harm's way must cope with today, all concerned with border security south of the U.S. boundary face a serious dilemma when it comes to having a ready policing infrastructure. For example, in Honduras government officials recently announced that some 4,000 police officers would be fired as part of President Porfirio Lobo's effort to purge the National Police of members believed to have ties to organized crime.

Many Latin American countries have often turned to their militaries that are considered to be less susceptible to corruption than police forces.  Moreover, the police within too many of these nations are not properly trained, equipped or prepared to face such well-armed criminal adversaries.

Nations within the hemisphere must also move quickly to identify and secure security gaps to prevent narcotics from reaching borders through the source and transit zones of the Caribbean and eastern Pacific. These strategies must also continue to increase ability to intercept aircraft attempting to cross over borders, and also control land routes.

While operating in the source and transit zones, integrating new technologies into missions is an essential part of managing risk on the borders and increasing operational effectiveness and responsiveness.  Innovative maritime readiness continues to be a critical necessity to augment land and air interdiction, as well as intelligence collection. Integrated fixed towers and other mobile surveillance systems, especially between ports of entry, serve to deter and interdict illegal entries and allow effective response. Obviously, continuous surveillance is a critical capability needed to establish and maintain proactive border security.

The use of biometric identifiers must also become a necessary and objective measurement of physical characteristics of individuals that can be used to verify the identity and prior entries and/or activities of individuals detained.

The diversity of transnational organized criminals as trafficking groups or territorial bands becomes somewhat irrelevant as to control of geographical areas or fluid contraband movements. Border security and threat prevention are unequivocally strategic, as is proactive border management for sovereign nations that must aggressively enforce the rule of law for their people.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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