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Brazil plans to nearly double its budget to about

half a billion reais to finance a border technology

program known as SISFRON, according to

Defense Minister Raul Jungmann. Updated

technology is crucial for the 1,500 soldiers in the

24 garrisons posted along the Amazon border

who divide their time searching for drugs with

raids on illegal miners, loggers and hunters.

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IN BRIEF

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Saudi Gazette, Saturday, January 21, 2017

World

Deep in Amazon jungle,

Brazil battles drug trade

By Alonso Soto

I

N an isolated army outpost

deep in the Amazon jungle,

Felipe Castro leads 70

soldiers on the frontline

of Brazil’s fight against its

biggest security threat: the drug

trade.

Castro’s platoon patrols a

250 km (155 miles) stretch of

the border with the world’s top

cocaine producer Colombia in

a bid to stem the flow of illegal

drugs and arms that is fueling a

war between criminal gangs in

Brazil.

“It’s a difficult job but not

impossible,” said the gaunt

29-year-old, his face covered in

green and black camouflage.

Watching from the bank of

the murky Japura river, Castro

directs his men as they use a

metal speedboat to practice in-

tercepting drug shipments on its

fast-moving waters.

The river marks only part

of Brazil’s porous border that

stretches for nearly 10,000 km,

three times the US-Mexico

frontier.

After years of fragile truce,

Brazil’s drug gangs have

launched a battle for control of

lucrative cross-border smuggling

routes that has spilled into the

country’s gang-controlled jails,

sparking the bloodiest prison

riots in decades.

More than 130 inmates have

been killed so far this year.

In the vast state of Amazo-

nas, the North Family gang has

A Brazilian Army soldier patrols the border with Colombia during a training to show efforts to step up security along borders, in Vila Bittencourt,

Amazon State, Brazil. — Reuters

Japanese working themselves to death

T

HE issue of overwork that has

gripped Japanese society is

so grave that one-fifth of its

workforce at risk of death.

They work more than

80 hours of overtime each

month, According to a government survey,

these employees work more than 80 hours

overtime every week, reports The Indepen-

dent.

Some  recent incidents in some top

companies has brought this issue to the

limelight prompting the government to step

in with measures to limit the amount of

overtime employees can do.

The call for a shift in work habits

comes in the wake of these incidents

which have shaken the public, the busi-

ness world as well as the government

authorities.

One such tragic incident was the

death of 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi,

an employee at advertising giant Dentsu,

who was working 100 extra hours a month

before she took her own life.

Dentsu’s president Tadashi Ishii

stepped down at the end of last year taking

full responsibility, after the government

ruled that Takahashi had died from over-

work in December 2015.

Similarly, the labor ministry had

referred Mitsubishi to prosecutors after

the company was suspected of forcing a

31-year-old male employee to do excessive

overtime. 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stepped

in and was seeking to impose a cap on

the number of overtime hours people

can work, and in February a government

scheme called ‘Premium Friday’  is set to

be launched.

This at least will allow workers to leave

the office early on the last Friday of every

month.

— Al Arabiya English

Japanese officegoers cross a street in Tokyo. — AP

BEIJING

China names new navy chief

China has appointed a new naval chief, state media said on Friday,

citing as confirmation his comments at an official function, which

were attributed using the new designation. The change comes at

a time when China’s rapid military development has alarmed its

neighbors, particularly through the expansion of its naval fleet to

back its growing assertiveness over territorial claims in the South

China Sea. The new PLA Navy commander is Lt. Admiral Shen Jinlong,

who had led China’s South Sea fleet, said the China Daily, the official

English-language newspaper. “Although the Navy did not disclose

when the transition took place, observers believe it was this week,”

it added. There was no formal announcement of the change, but a

statement on the Ministry of Defense website used the new title for

Shen.

— Reuters

MADRID

Snow cuts off Spanish highways

Authorities say some 2,000 people were trapped overnight in

vehicles as heavy snowfall cut off several roads in eastern Spain.

The army’s emergency unit said Friday it was distributing blankets

and hot drinks to hundreds of people trapped on the A3 highway

linking Madrid to the coastal city of Valencia and on other roads in

the region. Soldiers and firefighters used snowplows to try to clear

the snow, managing to open A3 traffic toward Valencia although it

remained blocked toward Madrid. Some train services in the region

were also interrupted. Heavy snowfall and rainstorms have hit many

parts of Spain this week with some eastern coastal tourist towns

reporting their first snow in decades.

— AFP

COPENHAGEN

Sweden crosses 10-m population mark

Swedish authorities say the Scandinavian country on Friday has

statistically crossed the 10-million population threshold, saying

mainly migration and more birth than deaths contribute to the

population growth. Statistics Sweden has posted a population clock

on its website saying the nation now has 10,000,064 inhabitants,

adding immigration accounted for 75 percent of the growth from 9

million to 10 million over the past 13 years. The state agency says

statistical population records have been kept since 1749, adding

that there were more women than men when Sweden reached the

9-million threshold in 2004. That gender balance shifted in March

2015: it now has more men than women. The agency said that 82

percent were born in Sweden, adding most foreign-born residents

come from neighboring Finland.

— Reuters

TAIPEI

Taiwan wants ‘new era’ of China peace

Taiwan aspires to create a “new era” of peace with China as military

action cannot resolve problems, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said

in a letter to Pope Francis, lauding Taipei’s peaceful intentions at

a time of tension with Beijing. The issue of self-ruled and proudly

democratic Taiwan has shot to the top of the international agenda

since US President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of

precedent last month by taking a congratulatory telephone call from

Tsai. That, along with subsequent comments by Trump that the “one

China” policy was up for negotiation, has infuriated Beijing, which

views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be bought under its control

by force if necessary. China is deeply suspicious of Tsai, whose

ruling Democratic Progressive Party espouses the island’s formal

independence, a red line for Beijing, and has cut off a formal dialogue

mechanism with the island. Chinese military aircraft and warships,

including its sole aircraft carrier, have also recently operated close to

Taiwan in what China called routine drills.

— Reuters

NEW DELHI

Court to hear plea on budget delay

India’s Supreme Court said on Friday it would hear a plea at the

start of next week that seeks to postpone the government’s annual

budget, due to be delivered on Feb. 1, until after five forthcoming

state elections are held. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) calls

for the delay over concerns that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s

government could seek to influence the outcome of the polls with

populist spending promises. Election rules in the world’s largest

democracy do not allow governments to offer such giveaways.

Modi’s government announced last autumn that it would deliver its

budget a month earlier than usual, in a move to pre-empt the polls.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party needs in particular to do well in Uttar

Pradesh, a battleground state with a population of more than 200

million that, were it a country, would be holding the biggest election

in the world this year. “The budget should be presented in April. The

government should not release it in February, as the state elections

are starting soon,” said lawyer M.L. Sharma, who filed the deferment

plea earlier this month.

— Reuters

for years dominated the smug-

gling of cocaine that is shipped to

Europe or sold in Brazil’s inner

cities in a business believed to be

worth $4.5 billion a year.

Brazil is the world’s big-

gest consumer of cocaine after

the United States, according to

United Nations data.

Machete-wielding North Fam-

ily gangs decapitated dozens of

inmates of the rival First Capital

Command (PCC) in a New Year’s

prison massacre that has sparked

revenge killings across penitentia-

ries in northern Brazil.

President Michel Temer’s

government is worried the prison

violence could spill onto the

streets of major cities such as

economic hub Sao Paulo and

Rio de Janeiro, a major tourist

destination.

Temer has vowed to improve

military surveillance along the

border, but senior commanders

acknowledge drugs and arms will

continue to flow in.

“Not even the United States

has been able to stop drug traf-

ficking along its border with

Mexico,” said General Altair

Polsin, head of the army’s ground

operations command. “You have

to tackle consumption to put an

end to this.”

The military plans to increase

its patrols on the Solimoes

River, one of the main smuggling

routes, and share intelligence

with officials in neighboring

Colombia and Peru.

Officers are putting their

hopes in a technology upgrade to

use infrared sensors and drones

for border surveillance.

For this year, Brazil plans to

nearly double its budget to about

half a billion reais to finance

a border technology program

known as SISFRON, accord-

ing to Defense Minister Raul

Jungmann.

Updated technology is

crucial for the 1,500 soldiers in

the 24 garrisons posted along the

Amazon border who divide their

time searching for drugs with

raids on illegal miners, loggers

and hunters.

Other Brazilian security

agencies fighting drugs and arms

trafficking in this isolated swath

of the jungle are also stretched.

Amazonas needs an extra

7,000 civil and military police to

keep up with the increase in drug

activity, according an internal

report by the state security

secretary.

“We are 30 officers oversee-

ing an area the size of France,”

said Marcos Vinicius Menezes,

the federal police chief in Tabat-

inga, a city washed by the Soli-

moes that borders Colombia and

Peru. “If fighting the drug trade

wasn’t enough, we also have to

look after the world’s biggest

tropical forest.”

— Reuters