Brazilian Amazon at risk of being taken over by mafia, ex-police chief warns – by Tom Phillips and Jonathan Watts (The Guardian – June 1, 2023)

Alexandre Saraiva gives alert on organised crime in region ahead of anniversary of killings of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

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.

For the rest of this article: