Aquarium fish trade linked to cocaine, timber smuggling in Brazil
August 10, 2008
Smugglers are using the ornamental fish trade to traffic cocaine and illegally logged timber according to a report from Sérgio Abranches of O Eco, a leading Brazilian environmental web site.
Speaking with law enforcement authorities, Abranches writes that facing a crackdown on clandestine air strips in the Amazon forest, smugglers are instead using rivers to traffic coca paste from Colombia to Brazil. The paste is refined into cocaine near the Amazon city of Manaus and sent down river to Belém where it is then distributed to international markets.
Abranches reports that there is evidence of gangs of young men being recruited to illegally log timber from forest reserves. They are paid with coca or cocaine and are often accompanied by gunmen.
Organized crime is increasingly involved in the illicit trade, which is said to be worsening as urban markets in the Amazon expand, according to the report.
Due to the large number of rivers — often convoluted by islands, oxbow lakes, and swamps — patrols are difficult, although Abranches says increased coordination by the army, the Federal Police and IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental law enforcement agency, might help the situation.