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Story Publication logo April 17, 2020

Assassinations, Deforestation, and Land Grabbing: A Laboratory of Crime in the Middle of the Amazon (Portuguese)

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The Brazilian Amazon is the theatre for the explosive combination between unbridled land-grabbing and massive illegal logging. Image by Mauricio Monteiro Filho. Brazil, 2019.
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The present project will map and investigate the land conflicts and illegal logging that have...

Image by Uwe Bergwitz/ Shutterstock. Brazil, undated.
Image by Uwe Bergwitz/ Shutterstock. Brazil, undated.

"There is no saint here." Residents of Lábrea, Amazonas, Brasil, of different backgrounds and socioeconomic classes -- industrial farmers, smallholder farmers, descendants of rubber extractivists and illegal loggers -- use this phrase to try and explain why the municipality, surrounded by protected forest areas, is one of the most violent and rapidly-deforested in the Amazon. On the border between the states of Amazonas, Acre, and Rondônia, there is no official data on the violence since few authorities ever visit -- either to monitor environmental crimes or to investigate the frequent murders. Satellites, on the other hand, accurately monitor environmental destruction in this far-from-urban region. And what they see is alarming.

Lábrea is the second most critical municipality in the entire Amazon in terms of forest destruction. Last year, it was the city with the fifth-highest increase in deforestation rates in the entirety of Brazil's Legal Amazon. It's no surprise that it was also ranked fifth out of cities recording the most fires between January and July 2019, based on agreeing data from IMPAM, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and IMAZON. Both last year's fires and deforestation were concentrated in the south of the municipality, where the São Domingos Seringal (rubber tree plantation) is located.

To read the full version of this story in Portuguese, visit Repórter Brasil's website.

"Aqui não tem nenhum santo". Moradores de Lábrea (AM) de diferentes perfis e classes sociais – grandes fazendeiros, pequenos agricultores, descendentes de soldados da borracha e madeireiros ilegais – repetem a frase numa tentativa de explicar por que o município, rodeado por áreas protegidas de floresta, é um dos mais violentos e desmatados da Amazônia. Naquela fronteira entre os estados do Amazonas, Acre e Rondônia, não há dados oficiais sobre a violência, já que são poucas as autoridades que chegam ali – seja para fiscalizar crimes ambientais ou para investigar os frequentes assassinatos. Já os satélites monitoram com precisão a destruição ambiental na região distante de qualquer centro urbano. E o que vêem é alarmante.

Lábrea é o segundo município de todo o bioma amazônico entre os mais críticos para a destruição da floresta. No ano passado, foi a quinta cidade da Amazônia Legal em incremento do desmatamento. Não por acaso, esteve na mesma posição do ranking das cidades que mais registraram queimadas entre janeiro e julho de 2019, segundo dados coincidentes do Ipam, no Inpe e do Imazon. Tanto os focos de incêndios como os de desmatamento concentraram-se no sul do município, onde fica o Seringal São Domingos.  

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