Violence and Illegal Deforestation: The Crimes of “Environmental Militias” in the Amazon Forest

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Bruna Pastro Zagatto, Luiz Enrique Vieira de Souza , Marcelo Fetz and Nataly Sousa Pinho
Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group


This article presents a conceptual definition of the “environmental militias,” which are criminal networks responsible for the rampant increase of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. We demonstrate how they combine violence and technology to reinforce the economic interests of agribusiness, illegal mining and logging sectors, providing all the logistic chain that interconnects such illegal activities and the global market. We argue that since the election of Jair Bolsonaro “environmental militias” have not only been supported by the president’s discourse, but also by federal institutions and government programs negatively impacting the Brazilian environmental legislation, reducing monitoring, control and surveillance of environmental assets and the power of institutions responsible for demarcating Indigenous Lands. This article demonstrates the struggle of the Brazilian federal government against scientific data related to deforestation and the increase in human caused fires in the Amazon region. Environmental concern based on scientific criteria has been redefined as “leftist ideology” and the government replaced specialized technicians by military members with no expertise in environmental monitoring or oversight institutions. Finally, we critically analyze market discourses on sustainability by understanding them as corporative reputational strategies rather than effective commitment with the preservation of the Amazon Forest.