Brazil has initiated a large-scale offensive against a drug trafficking organization that was reportedly establishing a "parallel state" in the Amazon, highlighting the immense security challenges facing authorities in this remote jungle region.
On November 20, 400 federal police and 300 military police officers carried out a coordinated operation in several cities in the Amazon and various other parts of the country, reported O Globo. The police reportedly have over 100 arrest warrants for alleged members of a powerful criminal group based in Brazil's northern jungle.
In a November 20 press release, federal police stated that the group was using "extreme violence" to create a "parallel state" in the area. "Their leaders handed down sentences on a daily basis," the press release added. Through coordination with Interpol, members of the criminal group are also being sought after in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia, the police said.
According to the police, this group -- which is not given a name -- was responsible for what has become known as the "Bloody Weekend," when 38 people were assassinated in the Amazon capital of Manaus over a three-day period this past July.
In addition to drug trafficking, the group is allegedly involved in arms trafficking, money laundering, homicide, and kidnapping, among other crimes, reported AFP.
InSight Crime Analysis
The criminal group's ability to reportedly set up its own rule of law speaks to how weak state presence in remote areas such as the Amazon provides ample opportunity for organized crime to flourish. Despite efforts to stem the tide of illegal activity in the Amazon, Brazil's expansive and remote border region makes this a daunting task. In the jungle town of Tabatinga, drug-related violence has reportedly caused the homicide rate to soar to 87 per 100,000.
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The group's apparent high level of coordination also raises concerns that increasingly sophisticated criminal networks are moving into the Brazilian Amazon. This appears to be taking place across the border in Colombia's Amazon region as well; although security officials told InSight Crime last year that narco-paramilitary groups known as "bandas criminales" (BACRIM) have no presence in the Amazon, the May 2014 arrests of nine narco-paramilitaries looking to set up operations in the jungle region suggest otherwise.