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Cablegate: Brazil: Senator Cornyn Visits Tri-Border Region

VZCZCXRO6722
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0785/01 2011835
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201835Z JUL 06
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5435
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 6512
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3050
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 7287
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 2686
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2361
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAWJC/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAO PAULO 000785

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, NEA/NGA
H PASS SEN CORNYN
NSC FOR FEARSTREASURY FOR OASIA, DAS LEE AND DDOUGLASS
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

TAGS: OREP PGOV PREL ETRD PTER EFIN BRPA
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: SENATOR CORNYN VISITS TRI-BORDER REGION

REF: (A) Asuncion 731

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Senator John Cornyn of Texas and his Foreign
Affairs Advisor Russ Thomasson visited Brazil and Paraguay on July
1-3 in order to study issues involving the tri-border region. The
Senator sits on several subcommittees that provide oversight for
matters involving the region, including the Armed Services
Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, which
he chairs, and the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on
Immigration, Border Security, and Citizenship, which he also chairs.
Senator Cornyn also sits on the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee
on Intellectual Property, and on the Subcommittee on Terrorism,
Technology, and Homeland Security. He began and ended his visit to
the region in Sao Paulo, where he was hosted by the Consul General
and given briefings at the Consulate General, including a core
Country Team briefing with Embassy Brasilia led by Charg Chicola
via Digital Video Conference (DVC). On the Brazilian side of the
tri-border area the Senator met a federal police commander who
described the challenges of managing with limited resources a busy
border crossing known for contraband smuggling, and toured the
warehouse facilities where seized contraband is kept. The Senator
also crossed the infamous Friendship Bridge for several meetings in
Paraguay (ref A). END SUMMARY.

---------------------------------
OVERVIEW FROM U.S. MISSION BRAZIL
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) Upon arrival to Brazil on July 1, Senator Cornyn was
given a briefing via DVC by Charg d'Affaires Phil Chicola regarding
the relationship between the United States and Brazil, and the
priorities and strategies of the U.S. Mission to Brazil. The Charg
was joined by several Embassy Section Chiefs, and in Sao Paulo,
several other Embassy Attaches and Consulate General Section Chiefs
were also present to answer questions and brief the Senator on
specific areas of interest. Significant attention was paid to
immigration issues, as prior to October 2005 when Mexico renewed its
visa requirement for Brazilians, Brazilians had become the second
highest population attempting entry into the United States illegally
in the category of Other than Mexicans (OTMs). Additionally,
Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) applications have increased by over forty
percent at all U.S. NIV posts in Brazil in the last year and a half,
with no signs of demand slowing.

3. (SBU) Senator Cornyn was also given a classified briefing by
several law enforcement and security offices at the Embassy and
Consulate General, focusing on issues of transnational threats
including terrorist financing, drug trafficking, and contraband
goods that are presented by the porous and largely uncontrolled
borders where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet.

--------------------------------------------- -----
TRYING TO STEM THE CRIME WITHOUT CHOKING THE TRADE
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (SBU) The Senator was taken to the tri-border area, and on July
2 he met with Jose Carlos de Araujo, regional police commander for
Brazil's combined revenue and customs agency (Receita Federal).
Araujo gave an overview of the challenges he faces commanding an
under-manned border crossing between Brazil and Paraguay that is
choked with both foot and vehicle traffic on most days. Contraband
goods, both fake items with false labels and goods that are not
declared for customs and tax purposes, are known to flow across the
border almost freely for sale largely in the metropolis of Sao
Paulo. Araujo said more than 10,000 people, mostly Brazilians, make
their living from illegal cross-border trade, which is valued at
nearly one billion dollars per year. One of the greatest
challenges, he said, was convincing people that these activities are
not only illegal, but simply wrong. Another challenge is the
integration of federal, state and local law enforcement to combat
the movement of contraband and related criminal activity.

5. (SBU) Araujo noted some success in the last five years, during
which time Brazil has gradually tightened controls on the bridge.
He notes that there was a time when literally hundreds of busses
would gather in a tight convoy on the Paraguay side of the border
and drive across the bridge into Brazil without stopping, usually

SAO PAULO 00000785 002 OF 002


laden with contraband goods. The handful of Araujo's men and
highway patrolmen could do nothing to stop them. Even on normal
days, when Brazilian officials check suspicious vehicles crossing
the border, the resulting wait on the Paraguay side can reach more
than three hours. When officials hold up traffic for too long, they
often face revolts by local businessmen claiming their livelihoods
are being ruined by government bureaucracy.

6. (SBU) Araujo said that, in general, busses are no longer used to
transport contraband across the bridge because his men eventually
became effective at stopping and impounding them. Taxis and
personal cars are now the most common modes of transporting illegal
merchandize, with smugglers brazenly filling vehicles' trunks and
back seats with goods. Brazil has recently built a new warehouse to
hold contraband goods, and a large new Customs and Immigration
facility at the Brazilian end of the narrow, two-lane cross-border
bridge is nearing completion. The Brazilian government plans to
open more traffic lanes on its side, as well as a larger inspection
area to fulfill Araujo's goal of eventually conducting 100 percent
inspections of vehicles and people entering Brazil from Paraguay.

--------------------
HOW THE USG CAN HELP
--------------------

7. (SBU) When asked by the Senator how the USG might help his
efforts, Araujo stated plainly that first, we may be able to
influence the government of Paraguay to be less antagonistic; he
said the GoP often decries Brazilian customs and border control
efforts as corrupt and unfair to Paraguayan interests. Secondly, he
suggested that we may be able to stem some of the contraband
movement and financing that the GoB believes passes through
companies based in Miami. (NOTE: The Consul General passed this
information to officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, who will follow up with Araujo on this issue. END NOTE)

------------------------
BEYOND FRIENDSHIP BRIDGE
------------------------

8. (SBU) After a tour of the Brazilian Customs warehouse that
stores contraband goods, the Senator was taken across the infamous
Friendship Bridge between Brazil and Paraguay, shown several ways
that contraband makes its way across the border, and then was hosted
by Embassy Asuncion in several meetings and tours in Paraguay. The
Paraguay portion of the CODEL is reported in ref A from Embassy
Asuncion.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: This CODEL was a good opportunity for regional
missions to highlight to the Senator the realities on the ground
regarding issues of immigration, contraband and transnational crime
that involve the tri-border region. A general lack of resources
still plagues Brazil's efforts to better control its borders, but it
appears that progress is being made, however incrementally. We will
continue our efforts to provide what assistance we can to GoB
officials, and to explore opportunities for greater bilateral and
multilateral cooperation. END COMMENT.

10. (U) This cable was coordinated/cleared by Embassy Brasilia,
Embassy Asuncion, the Chief of the U.S. Army Liaison to the Senate
(Barbero), and the Office of Senator John Cornyn.

MCMCULLEN

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