Robert Mujah is a manager SecDev and one of the founders Igarapé . InstituteIt is an independent research group based in Brazil Working to detect and disrupt environmental crimes in the Amazon basin.
After a grim search up and down the meandering Itaquai River of the Javari Valley, the Brazilian Federal Police confirmed what many had already expected. Two of the Amazon rainforest’s fiercest defenders have been killed in one of its most remote corners. One of them was my friend Dom Phillips, a curious and compassionate journalist who was looking for a book called How to save the Amazon. The other was Bruno Pereira, among the most admired and effective Brazilian defenders of the jungle and its inhabitants.
On Wednesday, the Federal Police said, a Suspect, local fisherman held for over a week, confessed To shoot the two men fatal. Led officials to where they are buried Just over a mile inland from the river. Police said Friday that some The remains have been identified as belonging to Dom and they are still examining the second body. Although the police have not yet revealed the motive behind the murder, the ongoing investigation is revealing a reality crime ecosystem to the world.
Joao Latt/AFP via Getty Images
Violence and injustice against environmentalists and journalists are painfully common in the Brazilian Amazon. Dom and Bruno weren’t the first two victims to gain worldwide attention.
It was Chico Mendes, famous for forming the rubber collector’s guild assassinated in 1988 By father and son ranchers. While celebrated by global environmental groups, it was Cursed by local ranchers and farmers. else jam order American Nun Dorothy Stang, a veteran rainforest activist, was murdered in 2005. Their killings led to international condemnationEffects seismic shifts in national preservation and Activate the global environment a movement. Tragically, they represent a tiny percentage of the violence that takes place under the jungle canopy.
Brazil is among The most dangerous Countries of the world for environmental defenders and journalists. a recent study It is estimated that at least 20 environmental activists were killed in Brazil in 2021 alone. on me 40 journalists There since the early nineties. There are routinely thousands of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian leaders and their families harassment and intimidation. Local environmental activists often file national petitions and international bodies About the growing threats and the demand for more protection, but their calls It is often overlooked. according to Submissions For the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the situation is getting worse: killings, expulsions, invasions and sexual violence have led to rose sharply Since 2019
Ongoing violence against environmentalists and investigative journalists provides a window into The scale of environmental crime And its huge losses in natural and human ecosystems. The Javari Valley is the second largest indigenous territory in Brazil, and like many other Amazon regions, destroyed it A combination of illegal logging, gold Mining, wildlife trafficking and poaching.
Investigators suspect that Dom and Bruno’s killings may be linked to poaching and poaching on Aboriginal lands, according to newsletter Reports. Bruno, who was receiving threats A few weeks before the fateful journey, he was seen as a danger to criminals in the area.
Edmar Barros / AFP
Bruno, who previously worked for the local office of the Brazilian federal agency responsible for protecting indigenous peoples, called FUNAI, has led a high-profile effort to stop poaching and gold prospecting. later demoted, Removed from field activities In 2019 then he asked for leave. He was one of his colleagues in FUNAI shooting in 2019, a crime that has never been resolved but is likely linked to local controversies over illegal hunting and fishing inspections. FUNAI was resented by local loggers, miners and fishermen – a sentiment echoed by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who describe it Agency as a “rat’s nest”.
Many environmental crimes in the Amazon region are involved with local crime gangs, corrupt officials and a small gang of businessmen. The rise in illegal fishing in particular coincided with a decline in rubber tapping during the 1980s and rose again after authorities began cracking down on illegal logging, when the Javari Protected Area was officially established in 2001. Caught in the Itakaway River by a fish mafia To the bustling markets of Tabatinga in Brazil, Iquitos in Peru and Leticia in Colombia.
There are transnational dimensions of environmental crime that has also plagued the Javari Valley. The most obvious includes drug trafficking organizations from Colombia and Peru expanding vigorously cocaine movement to the Brazilian and international markets. Brazil’s dominant drug factions – the First Capital Command, the Red Command and the Northern Family – are in a fierce competition for control of the shipping routes. Some of them transport their contraband across the river, while others diversify into gold mining and local businesses to launder their drug-related profits. With South America’s largest drug cartels fighting for control of lucrative trade routes, there are bound to be violent spillovers. Border societies are those that exist in sharp end from violence, pollution and diseases imported from abroad.
Aside from the drug trade, the prevalence of environmental crime in the Amazon belies the greater demographic upheaval in Brazil. After decades of rapid urbanization in coastal cities, migration, employment, and enterprises are beginning to turn inland. This turns second- and once-third-tier cities into more attractive opportunities, especially for poorer immigrants seeking a better life. It also makes them more violent.
While murder rates have fallen in many of Brazil’s largest southern capitals, border regions I grew more lethal. In 2020, nine Brazilian states are in the Amazon registered Murder rates are much higher than the national average. Amazonian cities have a kill rate of 40% higher from other Brazilian municipalities. As the locals well know, danger is multiplied under the jungle canopy where state institutions are weak and the rule of law deficient.
All of these factors help explain why deforestation and wildfires occur in the Brazilian Amazon faster pace in more than a decade. severely 95% of the total deforestation On amazon is illegal. Since Bolsonaro took office in 2019, the president and his allies have deliberately weakened environmental institutions and safeguards. This in turn motivates loggers, miners and fishermen to commit environmental crimes with potentially catastrophic repercussions. Today, the Amazon rainforest Dangerously close to the point of no return With dire global consequences. None of these dark truths are lost on Dom and Bruno who both realize how dangerous the situation is.
like dom wrote to a colleague Weeks before his death: “According to a specialist I spoke to recently, of the remaining 80% of the forests, about 40% are degraded. … The Amazon is less protected and pristine than most people think and much more threatened than people realize” . Let us pray that the world will listen as Dom and Bruno have asked us.