HomeInvestigationsChallenges and Opportunities in Protecting Amazon Tri-Border Regions

Challenges and Opportunities in Protecting Amazon Tri-Border Regions


Scattered domestic laws and competing interests intersect in the tri-border regions of the Amazon. Commitments to protecting its wilderness change with new political administrations.

Outgoing Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching, and mining as part of an aggressive campaign to open the Amazon to more commercial development. President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula, has promised a complete reversal.

Former Colombian President Iván Duque (2018-2022) put environmental crime at the heart of his security policy, but then did little as deforestation soared. Colombia’s current president, Gustavo Petro, has called protecting the Amazon one of the pillars of his agenda.

*This article is part of a joint investigation by InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute on illegal mining, timber trafficking, and drug trafficking in the triple border areas between Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela. Read the other chapters here or download the full PDF.

Peru’s President Pedro Castillo vacillated between claiming that quick action is needed to curb deforestation and promoting economic development in the region. His removal and arrest after an attempt to dissolve congress in December 2022 has further increased political chaos in the country, pushing environmental concerns yet further down the list of government priorities.

One country’s president -- Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro -- has undone all protections for the country’s Amazon region and is benefiting from its pillaging.

Legislative Framework and Political Will by Country


Important factors shaping Brazil’s legislative framework are its federalism and the outsized role of the Executive branches, both at the state as well as the national levels. The Bolsonaro government aggressively sought to undo protections for Indigenous Lands and nature reserves in the region to allow for sanctioned development and mining. These would invariably have brought roads and other infrastructure, often a gateway for large-scale environmental crimes in the Amazon, including mass illegal clearing for cattle and agriculture. Bolsonaro’s successor, Lula, who was previously president from 2003 to 2010, vowed during his campaign to fight forest loss. But without significant reforms that lock in protections, a future president could simply reverse Lula’s efforts.

Brazil’s registered Amazon, the area designated by law as Amazon forest, is about 500 million hectares and makes up about 60% of South America’s Amazon wilderness. About a third of Brazil’s forests are demarcated as Indigenous lands. After the end of military rule in 1985, a new constitution recognized Indigenous peoples’ rights to their land, including that their interests trump those of the government.

The Alto Rio Negro and Yanomami reserves -- at 18 million hectares combined -- make up most of the land at Brazil’s border with Venezuela and Colombia. The Alto Rio Negro reserve, home to 23 tribes, was decreed Indigenous territory in 1998, while the Yanomami reserve was decreed such in 1992. The mass invasion of prospectors has created an environmental and humanitarian disaster in Brazil’s Yanomami reserve and Venezuela’s Yapacana National Park.

In Yanomami territory, the three Ethno-Environmental Protection Bases closed by the government need to be re-established. A Brazilian federal judge ordered the government to reopen the bases more than four years ago, but it still hasn’t done so. The Hutukara Yanomami Association and the ISA have called for the creation of at least three new bases to monitor rivers. Air transport companies that facilitate illegal mining must be shut down, and their owners prosecuted.

The country’s constitution mandates that any search for or exploitation of mineral or water resources by the government on Indigenous lands can occur only after consultation with these groups. Bolsonaro and allied legislators, however, sought to change the geographic boundaries and/or legal status of existing of protected lands to open them to mining, agriculture, and infrastructure projects by private interests.

In February 2020, Bolsonaro sent to Congress bill PL 191/2020, which allowed for the regulation of mining and other projects on Indigenous Lands. Two years later, the bill was put on hold after large-scale protests. In March 2023, Lula’s government requested Congress to drop the bill.

Local lawmakers have also attempted to ease mining regulations. Legislators in Roraima passed one bill loosening regulations on use of mercury in small-scale mining, and another prohibiting the destruction of seized mining equipment.

Critics say Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and refusal to crack down on illegal logging, mining, and ranching spurred deforestation. Under Bolsonaro, Brazil’s environmental agency (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis — Ibama), in charge of environmental inspection with administrative sanctioning powers, saw its annual budget and personnel slashed.

During Bolsonaro’s first year as president, deforestation reached 9,178 square kilometers, nearly twice that of 2018. For the next two years, forest loss stayed above 8,000 square kilometers. And 2022 was the worst of his administration, with 9,227 square kilometers deforested from January to October, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais – Inpe). Portions of Brazil’s Amazon have already tipped from being a net carbon sink to a carbon emitter.

“There is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon,” Lula said in a speech at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, held by the United Nations (UN) in November 2022. “We will do whatever it takes to have zero deforestation and the degradation of our biomes.”

SEE ALSO: Ipê Trees - The Most Expensive Timber in Brazil's Amazon

Lula has had previous success in reducing deforestation, and much of the international community will support his efforts. After two months in office, the new president started his campaign to fight environmental crime. A task force integrated by police, armed forces, and environmental agencies was deployed to drive illegal miners out of Yanomami land. Expelling illegal miners from Yanomami lands could ease the pressures this Indigenous community has suffered for years at the hands of garimpeiros. However, illegal miners are fleeing to the Venezuelan border, and they could soon reach other corners of the Amazon Basin to continue their illegal plunder. Creating alternative development programs on the borders and reinforcing multilateral cooperation is therefore essential to prevent a similar crisis from occurring in other territories.

"It is extremely important not just to shut down a damaging activity like wildcat gold mining or illegal logging, but to provide strong economic opportunities as alternatives to that activity,” Daniel Nepstad, president and executive director at the non-profit Earth Innovation, told InSight Crime in a recent interview.

For instance, Brazil must strengthen programs such as the National Forestry Development Fund (Fundo Nacional de Desenvolvimento Florestal - FNDF), run by the Brazilian Forestry Service (Serviço Florestal Brasileiro - SFB); aim to instigate the development of sustainable forestry activities in Brazil; and promote technological innovation in the forestry sector.

Lula, however, is also likely to come up against resistance from people who call Brazil’s Amazon their backyard. During the 2022 presidential runoff between Lula and Bolsonaro, the latter won eight of the 10 municipalities that saw the most deforestation the previous year, according to a report by the Climate Observatory (Observatório do Clima), a network of Brazilian civil society organizations.


Desperate to recoup revenues lost from sanctions on petroleum exports, the cash-strapped government of President Maduro has turned from oil to gold and has little political will to protect the environment.

At first, Maduro sought to control mining by developing the Orinoco Mining Arc (Arco Minero del Orinoco - AMO), a crescent-shaped region that runs across three states and is the size of Cuba.

Created under a new framework for mining in 2016, the gold-rich region was the keystone of Maduro’s plan to bring in new revenues amid a spiraling economic crisis. After its creation, the president said that billions of dollars in mining deals had been struck with foreign companies.

But corruption, criminal control of mining areas, and the threat of sanctions on gold caused the little nascent international businesses interest to fade. No formal projects came to fruition.

Illegal miners, however, poured into the arc and beyond. To oversee the illegal gold rush, the government turned to a morass of proxies, including local officials, Colombian armed groups, and Venezuela’s military. The Maduro regime and its allies absorb much of the proceeds from illegal gold mining, according to the US Treasury Department.

SEE ALSO: Rise of the Criminal Hybrid State in Venezuela

Cristina Vollmer Burelli, the founder of SOS Orinoco, explained this dynamic succinctly in Americas Quarterly, a publication focused on Latin America. “Civilian and military authorities who respond to Maduro and his clique control access to fuel, mercury, motor pumps, and mining areas -- and profit handily from this control,” Burelli wrote.

In 2019, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Minerven, Venezuela’s state-owned mining company, alleging its involvement in illegal gold operations. Minerven smelts gold and is fully aware of its illegal origins, according to an opposition politician in Bolívar who spoke to InSight Crime in 2020 on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

The gold smelted in Minerven furnaces is ultimately transported to the vaults of the Venezuelan Central Bank (Banco Central de Venezuela – BCV) in Caracas, from where it can be sold abroad. Venezuelan gold has reportedly been purchased by the government of Turkey, and entities in Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.

Manuel Cristopher Figuera, former director of Venezuela’s National Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional – Sebin), has repeatedly described the system to news outlets as “a criminal enterprise” in which Maduro, his family and other accomplices use the central bank to move gold out of the country.

Paradoxically, Venezuela had pursued some of the earliest efforts to protect its Amazon forests from logging and mining, establishing parks and a “vigorous conservation policy” in Amazonas state in 1978. That year, all commercial logging was banned in the Venezuelan Amazon. In 1989, mining activity was also prohibited.

As stated in our previous report, “Stolen Amazon: The Roots of Environmental Crime in Five Countries,” Venezuela has a legislative framework designed to protect the Amazon. The 2006 “Organic Environmental Law,” provides guidance for managing natural resources and lays out constitutional rights to a safe and ecologically balanced environment. The country also has the “Penal Law of the Environment” (Ley Penal del Ambiente) of 2012, a roadmap for how environmental crimes in the nation should be handled.

Such protections, however, were undermined or effectively dismantled by the Chavez and Maduro governments.

Since 2011, Venezuela has refused to publish figures on deforestation, collecting them but keeping them from public view, according to a government official who spoke with the environmental news service Mongabay. However, the Venezuelan Ecological Policy Observatory (Observatorio de Ecología Política de Venezuela), a non-governmental organization, calculates that more than a quarter of the country’s forests disappeared between 2016 and 2020.

According to Global Forest Watch, which monitors forests through satellite data, Venezuela saw one of its highest deforestation spikes in 2021. Some 54,000 hectares were lost, more than double the primary forest lost in 2020.

Until recently, Venezuela had isolated itself from multilateral platforms that promote cooperation in the Amazon. Diplomatic relations with neighboring countries had also been broken. But the recent rapprochement between Maduro and the new presidents of Brazil and Colombia, may open a new era in the relations and cooperation between Venezuela and both nations. At the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, Maduro also called on renewed efforts for multilateral cooperation to protect the Amazon.

In January 2023, Venezuela’s military carried out six operations to destroy illegal mining equipment in Yapacana National Park, in the border with Colombia. But with these efforts and Maduro’s announcement to protect the Amazon amid armed groups and corrupt state elements profiting from illegal mining -- including Maduro himself -- doubts over a real commitment remain.


In the years since its 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, the Colombian government has missed a critical opportunity to bring institutions and law enforcement to areas once governed by the guerrilla force, protracting a longstanding lack of control over large, lawless areas of rainforest.

In 2017, deforestation reached a record yearly high of some 220,000 hectares.

Reining in deforestation has never appeared more difficult. Former President Iván Duque promised to cut the rate in half by the end of his four-year term in August 2022. Forest loss, however, jumped from some 159,000 hectares in 2019 to 174,000 hectares in 2021, and 2022 looks to be no better. Between January and March, forest loss increased 10% over 2021, and experts say the upward trend has likely continued.

Colombia has several new laws on its books to combat environmental crimes, but it is too early to assess their effectiveness.

In 2021, Colombia criminalized deforestation and the financing of the invasion of ecologically important territories. The new laws strengthen the Colombian legal framework, specifying that backers of businesses committing environmental crimes will face stiff penalties.  But law enforcement and prosecutors have long failed to unravel networks behind illegal deforestation. In recent years, campaigns and military interventions -- like Operation Artemisa, which attempted to root out environmental crime in Colombia’s between 2019 and 2022  -- have had little impact in reducing deforestation while disproportionately targeted poor farmers and loggers, the lowest members of the criminal food chain.

SEE ALSO: Legal Frameworks to Protect the Amazon Are Being Sorely Tested

The director of a non-profit group that works with poor rural communities told Mongabay that she fears Colombian farmers could find themselves increasingly prosecuted under the new laws.

Like Lula in Brazil, Colombian President Petro has been outspoken on combating deforestation and protecting the Amazon. During his campaign, he pledged to curb migration into the Amazon and to fight illegal activities that drive deforestation, such as timber clearing and the irregular purchase of land for cattle ranching, a common vehicle for laundering drug money.

Petro has put environmental crime as a priority for his security policy, seeking to move away from the “war on drugs” to environmental protection. His efforts to protect the Amazon, though, face the challenges of scarce funds and pushback from agribusiness. Criminal organizations have also long corrupted local politicians and officials to protect their interests.

He has sought to revitalize regional cooperation and has repeatedly demanded support from the international community for an approach that differs from that of his predecessors. At the 77th UN General Assembly in September 2022, Petro said that efforts to wipe out coca have brought violence to Colombia’s rainforests, while fossil fuels that contribute to climate change remain protected.

“What is more poisonous for humanity, cocaine, coal, or oil?” he asked.

Petro wants to implement a program to pay between $400 and $600 a month to peasants who substitute coca crops in exchange for preserving forests, an initiative similar to the Forest Ranger Families Program implemented in the early 2000s, in which peasant families had to commit to substituting illicit crops to receive benefits from development programs.

At the COP27 climate summit, Petro said that that his country intends to set aside $200 million per year over the next two decades to protect the Amazon.

Calling on others to contribute, he advocated for the “opening of a fund” sustained by the donations of companies and foreign governments.


Peru has a broad legal framework that protects its Amazon region. Although some different instruments and provisions regulate mining, logging, and wildlife activities, the law that covers the environmental mandate in Peru is the General Law on the Environment of 2005.

The law aims to regulate the protection and conservation of the environment, natural resources, and environmental damage, among others. Likewise, it has also created various instruments that expand the capacity of the Ministry of the Environment, the highest regulatory body for these matters at the national level.

Peru’s efforts are well-intentioned but ineffective. In late 2021, Peru’s government created the Yavari Tapiche Reserve, a protected area of 1.1 million hectares near the Peru-Brazil border. While the reserve’s creation was a major step nearly twenty years in the making, government agencies have yet to annul and remove 47 forestry concessions illegally granted there by the Loreto government, according to the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana - Aidesep).

Such ineffectiveness characterizes much of Peru’s attempts to protect its Amazon from illegal deforestation. In 2015, Peru ratified the National Forestry and Wildlife Law, an overarching statute regulating timber harvesting. A year earlier the government pledged to certify that wood bought and sold in the country came from legal sources. The government also pledged in its National Multisectoral Strategy to Combat Illegal Logging (La Estrategia Nacional Multisectorial de Lucha contra la Tala Ilegal - ENLTI 2021-2025) to create a forest surveillance system and a forensic laboratory for identifying timber, and to better coordinate government agencies tasked with tracking timber transportation.

Despite all this, Peru’s Amazon region saw its worst deforestation of the last two decades in 2020, when more than 203,000 hectares were destroyed, much of it from illegal logging. And Peru’s congressional agricultural commission is seeking to modify the forestry law to allow people to farm and ranch on their lands without consulting the Environmental Ministry (Ministerio del Ambiente) first, allowing for the easy destruction of potentially sensitive forests. Chronic political instability in the country means that the situation is unlikely to improve in the short term.

In Peru, a new bill has caused concerns over environmental defenders and civil society organizations. The legislative initiative seeks to amend the Law for the Protection of Indigenous or Native Peoples in Isolation and in a Situation of Initial Contact (Ley para la protección de Pueblos indígenas u originarios en situación de aislamiento y en situación de contacto inicial – PIACI).

The proposal would allow regional governments to decide on the creation of reserves within their territories, a capacity currently reserved for the national government. According to a representative of the Regional Organization of Indigenous peoples of the East (Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente - ORPIO), this would put isolated Indigenous communities living in these territories at risk. They would be at the mercy of forestry and agricultural activities in their territories, driven by regional administrations and agribusinesses. And all the Indigenous reserves recognized up to now, would be immediately evaluated in order to determine their continuity, revocation or extinction.

Joint Agreements

Joint agreements among the tri-border countries and international treaties exist, but they are flouted. Lack of state presence in the regions means that there is little to no deterrence for the criminals. To make matters more complex, across the different countries military forces stationed near border areas have variegated legal mandates, or clearly delineated competency and capacity, to act on transnational criminality, and even less so on environmental crimes.

Other barriers to effectiveness in multilateral cooperation are the unbalanced commitment of the different nations to protecting the environment, a lack of permanent communication channels, and the geographic challenges of the region. Finally, the funding needs for both law enforcement and economic livelihoods associated with effective protection of the environment exceed any national budgets and require international assistance.

Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Peru are all among the eight countries that make up the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), which aims to bring about sustainable development within the Amazon region. While its member countries are currently drafting a new Strategic Cooperation Agenda for the 2021-30 period, several factors may limit the organization’s ability to achieve its goals.

Previous projects have aimed to strengthen institutional and civilian efforts around the management, handling, and monitoring of water and forest resources, as well as species of flora and fauna. However, the success of these projects was limited thanks to a lack of financial resources and slow decision making within ACTO. So far, fighting environmental crime has not featured among the organization’s key priorities. Additionally, the countries involved have had to weigh potential economic development against environmental protections, which has prevented impactful collaborative efforts to tackle environmental crime.

Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru have all signed the Minamata Convention, which seeks to curb mining-related mercury pollution, though Venezuela has yet to ratify it. The treaty has so far shown little effect.

During Colombian President Petro’s first 100 days in office, legislators ratified the 2018 Escazú Agreement, a regional treaty that is designed to protect environmental defenders and requires member states to provide public access to environmental information. Petro signed the agreement before COP 27, fulfilling one of his campaign promises. Colombia’s congress had failed to ratify the agreement, adopted in 2018, for more than three years.

However, Peru and Brazil have so far refused to ratify the agreement, while Venezuela has not even signed it.

The four countries have signed and ratified the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The treaty protects endangered flora and fauna species from international legal and illegal trade. However, authorities' knowledge of how to apply this tool still needs to improve in the tri-border zones, limiting its effectiveness.

Presidents and diplomats from all these countries have gathered in Leticia over the years to draw up agreements for protecting the Amazon. One even bears the city’s name. The 2019 Leticia Pact – whose seven signatories include Brazil, Colombia, and Peru – sought to expand regional cooperation to tackle deforestation. But experts told Reuters in 2021 that the pact had largely failed due to limited funding, competing interests, and an inability to conduct on-the-ground actions. Venezuela was not invited to the summit.

In a shift in foreign policy, Colombian President Petro and Venezuelan President Maduro have restored the relationship between the two countries, reopening borders, re-establishing diplomatic ties, and holding talks. At the COP27 meeting in November 2022, both presidents stood together and committed to fighting climate change and protect the Amazon -- a major reversal for Maduro who had not shown any prior willingness to join such efforts, though it is likely nothing more than lip service.

Lula has also worked to restore bilateral relations with Venezuela. “We are going to re-establish the civilized relationship between two autonomous, free, and independent states,” Lula said at the summit the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños - CELAC) after his electoral victory.

Both Petro and Lula proposed to create an unprecedented Amazon summit that is intended to be held in Brazil during the first six months of 2023. This event would be organized by ACTO, adding institutional weight to take action on the Amazon.

Civil Society Groups and Indigenous Communities

Both civil society and Indigenous communities play critical roles in documenting deforestation and environmental crimes.

Monitoring the Amazon is a daunting task. But non-governmental organizations, news outlets, and universities have teamed up to track deforestation from illegal mining operations. This is often accomplished through satellite data, mapping technology, and algorithms to track forest loss. Examples of such projects include, MapBiomas, the Pulitzer Center’s Amazon Mining Watch, and Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), RAISG, and many more.

SEE ALSO: Can Brazil Keep Illegal Miners Off Yanomami Lands?

Better detection and imaging of illegal mining have drawn attention to the devastation occurring in the Amazon, including its tri-border regions. The monitoring also makes clear where enforcement is lacking.

News outlets dedicated to conducting investigations on the Amazon, such as InfoAmazonia, Repórter Brasil, and more recently Sumaúma have revealed the sophistication of illegal mining in the Yanomami reserve, and how gold mined there is laundered. Colombia’s national natural parks agency, in alliance with different organizations have created the program “Parques Cómo Vamos,” meaning “Parks How Are We Going.” This project is part of the National Natural Parks System (Sistema de Parques Naturales – SPNN) and aims to produce detailed information on environmental threats, conservation status, and governance in national parks.

In Venezuela, watchdog group SOS Orinoco has exposed illegal mining and deforestation in the country’s Amazon. Comprising a consortium of experts who work anonymously, the group has documented the presence of organized crime groups in mining operations in the Venezuelan states of Bolívar and Amazonas. In Peru, regular investigations and reporting on environmental crimes in the Amazon region comes from news outlets such as Ojo Público, and organizations such as Proética, the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International, the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental - SPDA, and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).  Representatives of ORPIO, which brings together more than 500 native communities, have raised their voices against the modification of PIACI Law, which could promote environmental crimes.

The devastating effects of illegal mining on the Yanomami people have also been well documented by civil society groups, academics, and the Yanomami themselves. Reports have highlighted medical issues, such as mercury exposure and malaria outbreaks; abuses of women, such as rape; alcohol and drug addiction; and attacks on the Yanomami, who have been killed in confrontations with illegal miners and other criminal actors.

The trouble is that Indigenous communities and environmental activists also are often left alone to defend the Amazon in its tri-border regions. The dangers of confronting illegal miners and other criminal actors make them vulnerable to threats, attacks, and targeted killings.

Security and Criminal Justice

Authorities have scattered and unbalanced presences in the countries of the Amazon’s tri-border regions.

Brazil’s border regions are patrolled by a mix of military units: the air force’s 7th Regional Air Command; a naval base belonging to the 6th Naval District; and the Amazon military command, composed of three jungle infantry brigades.

Brazil also has three police forces. The Federal Police is in charge of safeguarding federal laws and patrolling airports and borders. The Military Police depend on the governorates and, are responsible for patrolling and responding to emergency calls. They are subordinate to the governors of each state. When called upon by the Federal Government, members of state police forces can act as part of the National Public Security Force (Força Nacional de Segurança Pública). Finally, the Civil Police are state police forces. They carry out detective work, forensics, and criminal investigation, acting as a bureau of investigation for their state.

However, three government security posts were shut down in Yanomami territory between 2015 and 2016 for budgetary reasons, including the Korekorema BAPE, which, as mentioned earlier, controlled access to the Uraricoera River.

Indigenous communities have taken to pushing back against the spread of illegal mining in their lands, often by burning rafts and destroying equipment. However, as discussed earlier in this report, miners have retaliated, shooting at Yanomami who have attempted to block them from traveling. After gunmen on a speedboat shot at Yanomami in May 2021, the government authorized the employment of the National Public Security Force to protect the reserve for only 90 days, while the illegal miners maintain a permanent presence there. This episode highlights the geographic challenges of the tri-border areas, where police operations face physical and budgetary obstacles to operate in the long term. This translates into challenges in coordinating joint actions between the countries.

Prosecutors and other authorities have carried out operations against illegal mining in the Yanomami reserve, raiding companies and seizing gold, planes, and equipment. But they face hurdles, and investigations can languish. According to the New York Times, a Brazilian court rejected multiple requests by the federal police to order the arrest of Martins de Mello, the air transport businessman whose aircraft were seized due to their alleged use in illegal mining operations.

In response to multiple attacks to the Yanomami people by garimpeiros, in February 2023 the new Brazilian government deployed a task force to protect the Yanomami communities and expel illegal miners.

Venezuela’s security forces have actively participated in illegal mining operations. According to SOS Orinoco, a portion of the gold mined in the Yapacana reserve is handed over to the head of the military in Puerto Ayacucho. Military actions against illegal mining operations are few and for show. The Venezuelan military maintains a base on the reserve meant to house around 1,500 troops tasked with combating illegal mining. But only a handful of soldiers are currently stationed there, showcasing the military’s ineffectiveness -- and likely complicity -- in the illegal activities.

In Colombia, three army battalions are based in the Venezuela-Brazil border regions. The navy also has a battalion. The armed forces have conducted campaigns against illegal mining in the tri-border region, such as operation Anostomus in 2015. Critics have noted that the military’s strategy of massive raids to combat environmental crimes tends to result in the capture of only low-level actors, such as miners themselves.

Peru relies on its national police to take the lead with support from the military. The navy and the air force also participate in the operations as support. More particularly, the responsibilities of border surveillance in the tri-border concern the army's 5th Division. Peruvian security forces have played an active role in the fight against environmental crime, especially illegal gold mining. However, these efforts have been focused far from the tri-border, in the department of Madre de Dios. The department lies on eastern Peru’s border with Brazil, one of the main hubs for illegal gold mining in Peru.

Most of the operations carried out in both tri-border regions are aimed at stopping illegal mining, partly because this is the most prevalent crime in both regions. Also, because throughout the tri-border regions, troops and law enforcement have been unable to maintain the sustained presence in remote environments needed to combat environmental crimes. 

An official in the mayor’s office in Santa Rosa, Peru’s island town on the tri-border, said that prosecutors, forestry, mining, and environmental protection authorities are located far from the area.

Colombian and Peruvian authorities, for example, have come together to devise strategies to stop timber trafficking in the border, but larger operations -- such as Operation Amazonas that resulted in largest seizure of illegally-sourced timber in Peru’s history -- have yet to materialize in the tri-border area.

Colombia’s park rangers have been driven from their posts in Amazonas by threats from armed groups. Rangers must also navigate complicated waterways. To reach protected areas of the Puré River near the Brazil border, patrols must traverse 600 kilometers, a journey that typically takes four days.

Brazil’s environmental protection agency has not had an office in Tabatinga since 2018. Hugo Loss, director of IBAMA’s Environmental Technical Division between 2018 and 2019, said that such a base is critical in the tri-border due to the complexity of crimes there.

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