Pirates Threatening Brazilian Amazon Highlight Regional Security Concern

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Marauding pirates represent a growing threat along the Amazon river in Brazil, the New York Times reports, but this remote outpost is not the only place in Latin America where piracy is becoming a greater security concern. 

Police forces in Brazil are struggling to curtail river piracy in the Amazon river basin, as a series of recent attacks have terrorized riverboat crews and their passengers, reported the New York Times. This September, nearly a dozen men raided a ship near the port city of Belém, robbing some 260 passengers. The following month, armed pirates commandeered a fuel ship, stealing more than 2,600 gallons of diesel fuel, along with the crew’s personal items.

“Every riverboat captain knows they’re at the mercy of these bastards,” said Merinaldo Paiva, whose passengers were held up at gunpoint by pirates in April.

While piracy is a longstanding issue in the Amazon, boat operators told the Times they fear the groups are becoming more savvy in choosing their victims. Galdino Alencar, the president of a boater’s union in the state of Amazonas, said that pirates are now focused on going after large cargo ships, especially those carrying fuel.

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Due to the expansive and remote terrain that the Amazon encompasses, as well as the sparse police presence, combating river piracy has proven elusive for authorities. 

“There’s no law on the Amazon River,” one local fisherwoman told the newspaper.

InSight Crime Analysis

Many of the factors fueling piracy on Brazil’s Amazon are also contributing to robberies on rivers, lakes and the high seas in other parts of the region. In the last few years, there have been multiple reports of armed pirates boarding ships and looting passengers in the near-by Peruvian Amazon region. 

Meanwhile, Venezuelan pirates involved in a host of criminal activities have attacked fishermen and stolen machinery from petroleum platforms on Lake Maracaibo, causing delays in oil production. And off Ecuador’s Pacific coast, pirates strapped with AK-47s have reportedly taken to hijacking fishing boats, using the vessels to transport drugs or other contraband items. Fishermen say the pirates offer large sums of money in exchange for their complicity. Those that refuse the offer are rarely heard from again. 

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