Brazil: Drug DNA and Drones to Fight Trafficking

Published: 11 February 2013


Brazil is developing a program to chemically identify the “DNA” of seized cocaine and determine the drugs’ origins, according to local media reports. A drug database has already been set up to aid in the identification of drug sources, Brazil’s Director of Federal Police Leandro Daiello told reporters. 

The process of tracing the origins of cocaine involves identifying alkaloids within the sample and tracing them back to cocoa leaves grown in specific regions, InsightCrime reported. A similar practice is already utilized by the US Drug Enforcement Agency. However, the identification process may face difficulties when dealing with cocoa leaves processed into coca base in one country and refined into cocaine in another, as this makes identifying the source more complicated.

Brazil has offered to share the database information with Bolivia, which is believed to be the largest producer of cocaine entering Brazil. Daiello’s comments came at a meeting in La Paz on the strengthening of regional cooperation and anti-trafficking legislation. The meeting included representatives from Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and the United Nations.

The Brazilian government also plans to employ the use of unmanned drones in an effort to stop the flow of drugs through its long, porous borders. At the conference in La Paz, Bolivia and Brazil reached an agreement allowing Brazilian drones to operate in Bolivian airspace along the countries’ shared borders, Prensa Latina reported.

Brazil has purchased two drones from an Israeli defense contractor, with the option of purchasing more. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are able to fly for 37 consecutive hours and cover more than 620 miles (1000km). Daiello said the aircraft would be able to clearly photograph people or objects during its flight, the BBC reported.

The growth of the Brazilian economy has stimulated demand for drugs in the nation, creating what a 2013 Europol report on drug markets describes as “possibly the largest South American cocaine market.” With major cocaine producing neighboring countries and porous borders, Brazil provides traffickers with a growing, easy to access market. The development of identification and central database programs, as well as the agreement on the use of drones on the Brazil-Bolivia border, highlights the growing attention given to drug trafficking by the Brazilian government, and the money and resources the nation is willing to spend to limit the movement of drugs across its borders.