Lucrative Cocaine Trade Fuels Gang Presence in Brazil’s Amazon

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An official intelligence report determined that the Peru-to-Brazil cocaine trade is worth $4.5 billion each year, spurring the growth of national and local gangs in Brazil’s remote Amazon region, which was recently hit by a spate of prison violence. 

An intelligence report by Brazil’s Secretary of Public Security of the Amazon found that the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), Red Command and Family of the North (Família do Norte – FDN) are all present in the remote jungle region, according to Folha de São Paulo.

The PCC is reportedly active in seven states within the Amazon, while the Red Command is in six and the FDN is in two. There are also multiple local gangs in several of the states. 

The report indicated that the Amazon is the principal route for cocaine produced in Peru and Colombia destined for Brazil, the world’s second-largest consumer of the illegal drug. The $4.5 billion figure cited in the report accounts for cocaine trafficking from Peru to Brazil but not from Colombia to Brazil, meaning the total revenue generated by drug trafficking in the area is even higher.

The intelligence dossier was compiled following prison riots in different parts of the Amazon earlier this month that left a total of 99 dead. The violence was reportedly linked to fighting between the PCC and FDN over control of drug trafficking routes. 

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InSight Crime Analysis

The combination of a lucrative cocaine trade and sparse law enforcement presence makes the Amazon a natural attraction for Brazil’s drug trafficking gangs. The intelligence report said 15,000 military police and 2,670 civil police officers would be needed to cover the entire Amazon territory. Currently, there are only 8,900 military officers and 1,905 civil police deployed to these areas. 

A new war between the PCC and Red Command, which has allied with the FDN, is believed to be behind the recent surge in prison violence in northern Brazil. The prisons are a frequent flash point in part because the gangs direct their criminal activities from behind bars.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Prisons

While inter-gang violence has mostly stayed within the confines of the prison system, that could change. “This could cause problems in the streets,” prosecutor Lincoln Gakiya told local media last October, referring to the conflict between the gangs. The FDN has threatened to “spread terror” both inside prisons and oustide, issuing death threats against local judicial and security officials. 

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