Title

Organized Crime and the Environment in Latin America: A Fatal Encounter

Author Information

Katie Jones, InSight Crime

Date of Publication

2021 12:00 AM

Security Theme

Transnational Organized Crime

Keywords

Organized Crime, environmental crime, illegal logging, corruption, deforestation

Description

Latin America’s forests are being cut down at an accelerating rate. Asian markets are driving a trade in wildlife products, while wildcat miners decimate Amazon jungle from Peru to Guyana in search of gold. Not all environmental crime is driven by organized crime: farmers clear forests for their cattle, and local communities exploit small gold deposits. The trade in wildlife largely begins with local trappers, many of them impoverished Indigenous and rural people who are employed for their knowledge of the terrain. But as criminal groups diversify across the Americas, no longer solely dependent on drug revenues, they are finding more opportunity in environmental crime, which allows them some legal cover along with lucrative returns. Widespread habitat destruction and loss of crucial biodiversity are now rampant. The presence of violent criminal syndicates in rural and remote regions also brings them into conflict with anyone who would defend natural resources. The result has been a shocking death toll for environmental activists in Latin America, one without equal in any other region of the world. Here, InSight Crime provides a primer on how organized crime acts as a motor for environmental crime and violence in Latin America.

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Organized Crime and the Environment in Latin America: A Fatal Encounter

Latin America’s forests are being cut down at an accelerating rate. Asian markets are driving a trade in wildlife products, while wildcat miners decimate Amazon jungle from Peru to Guyana in search of gold. Not all environmental crime is driven by organized crime: farmers clear forests for their cattle, and local communities exploit small gold deposits. The trade in wildlife largely begins with local trappers, many of them impoverished Indigenous and rural people who are employed for their knowledge of the terrain. But as criminal groups diversify across the Americas, no longer solely dependent on drug revenues, they are finding more opportunity in environmental crime, which allows them some legal cover along with lucrative returns. Widespread habitat destruction and loss of crucial biodiversity are now rampant. The presence of violent criminal syndicates in rural and remote regions also brings them into conflict with anyone who would defend natural resources. The result has been a shocking death toll for environmental activists in Latin America, one without equal in any other region of the world. Here, InSight Crime provides a primer on how organized crime acts as a motor for environmental crime and violence in Latin America.