Indigenous communities in the state of Acre in northwest Brazil’s Amazon region are facing growing threats from cocaine trafficking, as criminals up their activity in the country’s remote jungle regions bordering the coca-producing nations of Peru and Bolivia.
Earlier in the year, Brazilian police investigations revealed a large criminal group from São Paulo was operating in the region, and authorities have seized 40 kilos of cocaine in the town of Xapuri since January, reported O Globo. While drug traffickers operate mainly on the outskirts of Xapuri, they have also begun encroaching onto the state’s rubber plantations, including the 970-hectare Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve — land set aside for conservation and sustainable development.
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This presence is also evidenced by growing violence: a study performed by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics found that homicides increased 23.9 percent in Acre in 2012, with many of the murders linked to the drug trade.
According to O Globo, the movement of drug traffickers through the region has been facilitated in part by roads built in the past for rubber and nut producers. While these roads allow for the easier export of products, they have also provided a more direct route of entry for drugs.
Brazilian authorities consider Acre, where a number of Brazil’s uncontacted indigenous communities are located, to be one of the principal ports of entry of drugs into the country, with various rivers connecting the state with Peru and Bolivia along 2,000 kilometers of shared border.
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The tri-border region between Brazil, Peru and Bolivia is a hotbed of illegal activity, including human smuggling and illegal logging, in addition to drug trafficking. Earlier this year, more than 5,000 illegal immigrants, the majority Haitian, were brought into Brazil from Bolivia and Peru via Acre, and Peruvian groups are allegedly involved in extracting timber from Brazil using tributaries of the Amazon River.
This is not the first time the indigenous population in Acre has been reported to face threats from drug trafficking. In August 2011, alleged drug traffickers from Peru attacked an indigenous reserve, and authorities later discovered a camp in the area thought to belong to drug runners.
Brazil is one of the principal destinations for Peruvian cocaine trafficked through Bolivia. While much of the product enters Brazil on drug flights, its extensive shared border with Peru and Bolivia also allows the use of land and river routes.