Senior representatives of countries of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACTO) drew up an ambitious plan for the Amazon region in favor of sustainable development, health, and the fight against transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) that exploit the forest for their gain.
Among their latest resolutions, approved during the XIV Meeting of Foreign Ministers of ACTO in November 2023 in Brasilia, was the reactivation of the Commission on Public Security and Cross Border Crime. The special commission will be made up of public security authorities from the signatory countries — Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela — to work on international cooperation to combat TCOs operating in the region.
The foreign ministers also made progress on the proposal to establish the Center for International Police Cooperation in the Amazon, with headquarters in Manaus. The center aims to focus on information, intelligence, and alert exchange; training activities; and combined tactical operations among ACTO countries to eradicate crime. It was also decided to start the process of creating an Integrated Air Traffic Control System, together with the respective competent national bodies, to monitor illegal air traffic and combat drug trafficking.
According to experts interviewed by Diálogo, one of the difficulties in combating transnational crimes is the Amazon’s own fluvial geography, which is used to transport illicit substances, for currency evasion, and to move various contrabands from other Latin American countries. In the opinion of Marina Bohnenberger, a researcher at the Brazilian Forum on Public Security (FBSP), the exchange of information in the area of intelligence is essential to reverse the current situation of transnational organized crime in the region.
“Organized crime in the Amazon join various illicit activities in addition to drug trafficking. We have mapped that there are 22 factions operating in the region, and many of them are in a dispute over territory, which is done in a very violent way. In addition, organized crime acts as a parallel state, managing territories not only based on drug trafficking, but also on the execution of various services that end up exerting strong pressure on indigenous, quilombolas [Afro-Brazilians], and riverine communities, among others. And that creates a new problem,” Bohnenberger said.
Operating in different areas, criminal organizations also exploit activities that have a major environmental impact on the Amazon region. Daniel Silva, a lawyer specializing in International Relations at law firm Galvão & Silva Advocacia, told Diálogo that the main crimes committed in the region are illegal deforestation, illegal fires, wildlife trafficking, and illegal mining.
“All these environmental crimes attack the rights of society as a whole, since we all benefit from healthy nature. In Brazil, they are provided for in the Environmental Crimes Law, with penalties of detention and imprisonment that can reach up to four years, in addition to fines,” said Silva, who believes that there will be greater penalties given the transnational nature of the crimes committed in the Amazon.
In June 2024, the foreign ministers will meet again in Suriname, during the XV Meeting of ACTO Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The meeting will be held in the city of Paramaribo, with the participation of representatives of the signatory countries.