Federal security forces in Argentina have a new ally in their fight against drug trafficking: satellite technology. The forces now have access to high-definition images from 15 satellites that scan the country each day, including those from the new Argentine satellite, SAC-D/Aquarius. Argentine authorities have high expectations for the information the satellite images will provide. Security Minister Nilda Garré said satellites can reveal clandestine airstrips and alternate land routes used by drug trafficking, locate illegal crop plantations, and uncover smugglers and even human traffickers. The National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE, for its Spanish acronym) is the state agency in charge of distributing satellite images to security forces. Its secretary-general, Félix Menicocci, told Clarín newspaper in October 2011 that satellites send two types of information: optical images (photographs) and radar images. Experts say the latter allows more efficient tracking of drug trafficking movements because they provide clear vision through thick vegetation or even at night. Over the years, the illegal drug trade in Argentina has grown to worrisome proportions. “Argentina’s capability to implement complex long-term operations against drug trafficking is limited,” said the last detailed report from the U.S. State Department, which parallels reports from the U.N. and indicates a booming drug business in Argentine territory. By Dialogo July 01, 2012 Drug trafficking in Argentina An agreement between the Ministry of Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (where CONAE is housed) permits the use of satellite images in the fight against drug trafficking, but work still needs to be done to improve coordination between state agencies. The Ministry of Security understands that this entails a high degree of complexity, so much so that its officials underscored the importance of synergy when they signed the agreement in October 2011. The first approach between CONAE and federal security forces became the “First Joint Course on Image Interpretation.” In it, CONAE experts taught officers from the Gendarmerie, Prefecture and Federal Police how to read the information on satellite images. María José Meincke, an expert in drug trafficking and vice chairman of the Argentine Association of Graduates from the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington, D.C., said the key goals to the signed agreement are to ensure the agencies involved harmonize their objectives and reach a level of collaboration suitable for exchange and coordination. “In reality, data sensitivity and other matters related to the rivalry existing between agencies results in that, for the time being, information is not shared as it should,” said Meincke, who is well-versed in interagency coordination and fighting transnational organized crime. “Many times, each agency goes its separate way and performs its task separately,” said Sebastián García Díaz, former secretary of Drug Addiction Prevention and the Fight Against Drug Trafficking, a government institution in the province of Cordoba. “It is very important to count on satellite control, but now we have to determine what to do with this information, who will process it and act in real time with resources, regulations and clear procedures?” He explained that these matters will be solved by interagency coordination. In the inherent complexity of the fight against organized crime, which is becoming increasingly transnational and sophisticated, satellite technology will undoubtedly play a fundamental role. The initiative in Argentina started on the right track with the signing of an agreement on cooperation and information exchange. The challenge for disparate state agencies is now to articulate and pool resources to achieve a significant impact against drug trafficking. Interagency coordination The issue of cocaine in Argentina is twofold, according to the 2011 World Report on Drugs produced by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. On one hand, the country is showing positive signs compared to the rest of Latin America in terms of tackling consumption. On the other, it is one of the transit countries through which most of the European-bound cocaine passes. One of many examples was an airplane loaded in Argentina with 940 kilos that was seized by the Spanish Civil Guard in Barcelona in 2011. The sophistication of criminal organizations has been a constant: Besides growing in size, coordinating their interests and expanding their markets, they are rapidly multiplying their resources. For example, hundreds of clandestine airstrips are scattered in northern Argentina. In the province of Chaco, the Argentine nongovernment organization Anti-Drug Association discovered the operation of at least 141 illegal airstrips, largely thanks to satellite information. Facing an increasingly complicated scenario, Argentine authorities have focused their efforts on fighting the sophistication of organized crime with more sophisticated state technology. The satellite images are and will be a fundamental tool to fight off drugs. As we keep using them more and more, they will direct the panchromatic cameras and proper radars towards them. I have no doubt that they will manufacture satellites for these purposes. I took some courses at CONAE, and at the Sat. Technical Lab. with Dr. V. H. Rios, a prestigious researcher at the UNT University. Very good report. Regards.
Image source: Office of the President, Republic of GhanaThe President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, inspected ongoing dredging works on the Odaw River in Ghana’s capital Accra yesterday.During the visit, the site engineer, Wise Ametefe, informed the president that the current dredging works are not limited to the Odaw River only, but to the Korle Lagoon and to the estuary.According to Ametefe, the dredging operations will be conducted in the following days at Caprice, Avenor and Agbogbloshie, all in Accra, and in the Korle Lagoon as well.The site engineer stated that, upon the project’s completion, a number of recreational facilities will be constructed on the site of the Odaw River, as part of the Lower Korle Lagoon Redevelopment Project, and urged residents living around the River to desist from throwing refuse into the river, as it has made the process dredging quite difficult.The site engineer assured Akufo-Addo that the Odaw River dredging program will be completed in 18 days, to which the president responded: “I will come back in 18 days to check.”