Brazil began deploying about 30,000 troops on Saturday to secure its borders as it prepares to host the soccer World Cup, which is scheduled to begin next month.
The operation involving the army, navy and air force is to extend over the 16,900km frontier separating the South American giant from the 10 nations it borders.
The internationally coordinated effort is part of a strategic border security plan that was announced by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in June 2011.
“It is the single largest mobilization carried out by the state to combat illegal activity from the north to the south of the country,” the Brazilian government said in a statement.
A similar security operation took place ahead of last year’s Confederations Cup, widely regarded as a test run for the World Cup extravaganza, which is to see soccer matches held in 12 cities.
That two-week operation saw the confiscation of nearly 19 tonnes of drugs, as well as caches of weapons and explosive devices.
The latest operation is to target crimes including drug and arms trafficking, as well as illegal immigration.
It is also to provide medical care for communities that are in need.
The operation is to span 710 cities and cover a distance of 110km from the borders, where security will be stepped up at crossings.
Rivers and lakes are also to be patrolled.
Globo television showed images of authorities inspecting vehicles, including trucks and passenger buses.
Along Brazil’s border with Argentina, the troop deployment began at midnight, with checkpoints set up near the Uruguaiana International Bridge, which links the two countries over the Uruguay River.
The Brazilian Ministry of Defense has not specified how long the operation will continue for citing strategic reasons, with a spokesman telling reporters that the military did not want to “give advance warning to criminals.”
Officials declined to confirm reports that a similar security operation could be carried out once the FIFA tournament gets under way. The first match is to be played on June 12, with the final on July 13.
Brazil expects to welcome more than 600,000 foreign tourists for the massive sporting event and is anticipating the internal displacement of more than 3 million locals.
Brazil shares borders with Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. More than half the length of the borders runs through rivers, lakes and other waterways.