The rapid advance of organised crime groups in the Brazilian Amazon risks turning the region into a vast, conflict-stricken hinterland plagued by heavily armed “criminal insurgents”, a former senior federal police chief has warned.
Alexandre Saraiva, who worked in the Amazon from 2011 to 2021, said he feared the growing footprint of drug-trafficking mafias in the region could spawn a situation similar to the decades-long drug conflict in Rio de Janeiro, where the police’s battle with drug gangs and paramilitaries has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
“I experienced how the state lost control of public security in Rio de Janeiro,” Saraiva said. “And in the Amazon today – if nothing is done in terms of public security – we are facing a continent-sized Rio de Janeiro, with the aggravating factors of borders with major drug producers and an extraordinarily difficult jungle setting.”
Saraiva warned of dire consequences for the rainforest and its inhabitants if criminal gangs were allowed to grow into powerful armies like the rebel factions in neighbouring Colombia. “We will have criminal insurgents … [whose] ideology is money,” he said.
“We will have areas of conflagration, of major conflict between groups which are fighting over areas of illegal gold and timber extraction. In the middle of this, we will have Indigenous victims. And we will face immense logistical difficulties in combating this,” warned the police chief, the author of a recent book called Jungle: Loggers, Miners and Corruption in a Lawless Amazon. [Continue reading…]