Deforestation and organised crime in the wider Amazon region

1 April 2019

An authoritative article on the Amazon is published by the Brazilian Igarapė Institute, authored by Robert Muggah, Adriana Abdenur and Ilona Szabó . They make a strong case for international cooperation in the face of the increased intertwining of organised crime and deforestation.

The Amazon, they remind us, is the world’s largest terrestrial carbon sink. Over four decades, one-fifth of its area has been deforested, and of that some 50-80% is due to illegal activity. Increasingly, the organised criminal gangs functioning in the border areas of Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Brazil have found gold to be a safer financial bet than cocaine. But (largely illegal) mining accounts today for 10% of the decline in tree cover, it is claimed. In addition, illegal gold mining pollutes rivers, destroys eco systems, damages health and creates a toxic social environment.

Yet, the authors point out, the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation, signed in 1978 and amended in 1998, has made little progress, and now with the Bolsonaro government looks likely to make even less.

The article makes no mention of the recent major police and army activity in Madre de Dios, but comments that such operations have an important role to play, but “must be conducted with respect for human rights”. Indeed.

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