Brazil Warned About Gangs Rising in Amazon

Former police official says organized crime could control the region
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2023 5:22 PM CDT
Organized Crime Could Soon Rule Amazon, Brazil Warned
Indigenous people motor along on the Itaquai river last June, searching for British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira in the Javari Valley region of Brazil.   (AP Photo/Edmar Barros, File)

The Brazilian Amazon is in danger of becoming a lawless region plagued by fighting among armed groups and controlled by organized crime, a former senior federal police chief has warned his country. Alexandre Saraiva, who served in the Amazon for a decade, said drug-trafficking groups are on the advance, seizing territory, the Guardian reports. "I experienced how the state lost control of public security in Rio de Janeiro," he 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."

The warning was issued just before the one-year anniversary of the killings of Bruno Pereira, an Indigenous activist, and Dom Phillips, a journalist, in the rainforest. Suspects in custody are waiting to hear if they'll face a jury trial. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has attributed the slayings to the anarchy in the region permitted by his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, and has made changes. The head of the organization Pereira was working for said, per the Guardian, "We're grateful the government has taken some action, but things are still not 100%." Saraiva suggested Brazilians need only look to a neighbor, Colombia, to see what happens when gangs are allowed to grow into armies. "We will have criminal insurgents … [whose] ideology is money," he said. (More Amazon rainforest stories.)

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