LAND OF BLOOD - Rising Violence in the Brazilian Amazon
The Brazil’s Amazon region is witnessing a massive rise in drug violence with dozens of murders every day. 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.
In the last ten years the violence has shifted from the wealthy Southern Eastern states like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, to Brazil’s poorer Northern states, most of which have seen homicides rates – usually gun deaths – rise by more than 100 per cent.
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%, making the Amazon one of Brazil’s most violent regions.
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.
Analysts attribute the rise in violence in the region a culture of violence born through impunity, weak state institutions and centuries of savage inequality, exacerbated by drug trafficking networks which have expanded greatly throughout the North East region in recent years.