The Brazilian Amazon has become one of the world’s most violent non-conflict zones in recent years.
Brazil is now the world’s seventh largest economy and as its wealth has grown so has its appetite for drugs; the country recently became the world’s second largest consumer of cocaine and the largest consumer of crack, which has led to an explosive geographic shift in violence.
Between 2002 and 2012, the rate of murders in the Amazonas and Pará states, through which the Amazon River flows from the tri-border with Colombia and Peru to the Atlantic, increased respectively by 298,2% and 204%.
Analysts attribute the rise in violence in the region a culture of violence born through impunity, weak state institutions and exacerbated by drug trafficking networks.
Port cities like Manaus and Belem have turned in strategic transit points through which cocaine coming from Colombia and Peru is then sent for distribution in Brazil’s wealthy Southern metropolises like Rio and Sao Paulo, or to Europe, often via Africa. As the city’s importance as trafficking routes grew, a lucrative local trade developed, with violent gangsters killing each other over territory and drug debts as low as $2.
I have been working in region for the past three years documenting the massive rise in drug violence in Northern Sates of Amazonas and Para. I documented the drug trade’s destructive trail of murder, crime, addiction, prison, prostitution and grieving families. I followed local crime reporters and covered police operations, arriving at murder scenes often just moments after. I spent days with small time local dealers and homeless street addicts, trying to document and understand their lives. I visited violent, dirty and massively overcrowded prisons, filled with gang members and addicts.