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Brazil Launches Military Maneuvers on Colombian Border - 2002-05-21

Brazil is carrying out large-scale military maneuvers along its northern border with Colombia in the Amazon basin. The maneuvers, which began Monday, are the largest ever in the region,

Some 4,000 Brazilian soldiers are taking part in the operation along with planes, helicopters, and river boats.

A Defense Ministry statement says the military exercises, known as Operation "Tapuru", are the largest ever in the region and are aimed at strengthening security along the border with Colombia.

The maneuvers, which include the Army, Air Force, and Navy, are taking place in a 252,000 square kilometer area which is sparsely populated and covered by rainforest.

The commander of the operation, General Valdesio Guilherme de Figueiredo, says the exercises will help strengthen command-and-control and communications capabilities between the three services.

The Defense Ministry says the decision to hold these maneuvers was made in December, and are not in response to the increased conflict in neighboring Colombia between the government and leftist guerrillas. However, Brazilian officials have in the past expressed concern over possible incursions by the rebels into Brazilian territory as well as drug-trafficking activities in the region.

The military exercises, which began on Monday, will end next Friday.