Over 8,000 Lives Lost in the Brazilian Amazon in 2022

Published: 09 June 2023

By Vinicius Madureira

The Brazilian Forum of Public Security (FBSP) has revealed a staggering toll of over 8,000 lives lost in the Brazilian Amazon region in 2022, highlighting the escalating violence and lawlessness plaguing the area.

The rate of lethal violence in the Amazon surpasses that of the rest of the country by more than 50%, painting a grim picture of the struggles faced by the region. The tragic deaths of environmental activists Bruno Pereira and Dom Philips nearly a year ago serve as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by those who strive to protect the Amazon.

Pereira, an expert on Indigenous peoples, and Philips, a British journalist, were found dead in the remote Javari Valley, an area characterized by the absence of state oversight in one of Brazil's largest Indigenous territories, which spans an area larger than Austria. This incident sheds light on a broader phenomenon that is unfolding in the region.

According to FBSP, the Brazilian Amazonian states have an average of one police officer per 2,451 square kilometers and one forensic professional per 2,280 square kilometers. In comparison, other parts of the country enjoy a significantly higher police presence, covering areas roughly three times smaller.

Exploiting this dire situation, criminals have turned the Amazon, renowned for its rich biodiversity and ecological wonders, into a breeding ground for illicit activities.

Transnational crime and violence have become intertwined with environmental crimes, fueling a dangerous web of fish trafficking, illegal logging, and illicit extraction of precious minerals such as gold.

A recent report from Amazônia Real, an investigative journalism watchdog, unveiled the presence of numerous floating rafts on one of the largest tributary rivers of the Amazon River Basin.

These rafts serve as gathering places for illegal miners who pollute rivers that are vital for the survival of local communities and Indigenous people. A study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and a prominent public health research institution revealed that fish from all six Brazilian Amazonian states exhibited mercury contamination levels above safe limits set by the World Health Organization.

Berenice Simão, an educator and researcher quoted by Amazônia Real, expressed concerns about the consequences of mining activities, stating that "what hurts most about its consequences are prostitution, the use of drugs, and violence."

This combination of factors has created a favorable environment for criminal networks to prosper. The vast and sparsely populated areas in the Amazon provide ample opportunities for criminals to expand their operations. Limited police forces and investigative capabilities further compound the situation, granting criminals the advantage.

The alarming loss of over 8,000 lives in the Brazilian Amazon in 2022 calls for immediate attention and decisive action to curb the violence, protect the region's invaluable resources, and safeguard the lives of its inhabitants.