HomeNewsBriefLatAm Most Dangerous in the World for Environmentalists: Report
BRIEF

LatAm Most Dangerous in the World for Environmentalists: Report

BRAZIL / 16 APR 2014 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

A new report by the international watchdog group Global Witness says two-thirds of documented killings of environmentalists over the last decade occurred in Latin America and nearly half in Brazil, as environmental campaigns clash with both legal and criminal business interests, especially in the timber trade.

"Deadly Environment" (pdf) documents the killing of 908 citizens protecting land and environmental rights in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013. In the majority of cases, however, the identity of the perpetrators is unknown, and there have been only 10 convictions over that time period, the report says.

Over the course of a decade, the annual number of murders tripled, with 147 in 2012 compared to 51 in 2002. Over the last four years, there has been an average death rate of two activists per week.

Global Witness says Brazil is the most dangerous place for environmental activists, whose 448 cases accounts for just under half of the recorded killings; Honduras is second globally, with 109 cases, while Peru ranked fourth globally with 58 murders, followed by Colombia with 52.

Many of the murders of environmentalists in Latin America are not linked to criminal organizations but to legal business interests, such as victims of land rights disputes in Honduras, or anti-mining protesters murdered in Peru, the report says.

However, organized crime is heavily involved in activities such as eco-trafficking, which are often at the root of the violence. The illegal logging trade in particular is one area where criminal and environmental interests clash, and, according to Global Witness, threats and intimidation by interests linked to the sector are one of the principal causes of activist deaths.

InSight Crime Analysis

The impact of the illegal timber trade -- which is worth up to $30 billion annually and has strong links to organized crime -- is particularly apparent in Brazil, where deforestation, spurred by illegal logging, has been increasing. And Global Witness says land conflicts linked to the Amazon's deforestation accounted for 68 percent of all murders linked to land disputes in Brazil in 2012.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Eco-Trafficking

The issue rose to prominence in 2011, when Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria Do Espirito Santo da Silva -- two prominent environmentalists who denounced the encroachment of illegal loggers in the northeast Brazilian Amazon state of Para -- were murdered by masked gunmen.

Poor prosecution rates in Brazil -- just one percent of cases resulted in a conviction, according to Global Witness -- and the influence of powerful loggers in isolated rural areas, means most murders of environmental activists go unsolved.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 2 AUG 2019

Without firing a single shot, heavily-armed men disguised as police raided a São Paulo airport cargo terminal, making off with…

GULF CARTEL / 10 JUL 2019

A new set of migrant protocols implemented in the United States is requiring asylum seekers to wait out their court…

HUMAN RIGHTS / 6 OCT 2014

Mexican officials have defended the government’s security policy following allegations of a massacre by the army in Tlatlaya, central…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…