Criminal Activity and Deforestation in Latin America

8th December 2020
Author: Laura Bolton

This review examines evidence on criminal deforestation activity in Latin America (particularly, but not exclusively the Amazon) and draws from the literature on the lessons learned in combatting criminal deforestation activity. This review focuses on Brazil as representative of the overwhelming majority of literature on criminal activity in relation to deforestation in the Amazon. The literature notes that Illegal deforestation occurs largely through criminal networks as they have the capacity for coordination, processing, selling, and the deployment of armed men to protect operations. Bribery, corruption, and fraud are deeply ingrained in deforestation. Networks may bribe geoprocessing experts, police, and public officials. Members of the criminal groups may become council members, mayors, and state representatives. Land titles are fabricated and trading documentation fraudulent. The literature also notes some interventions to combat this criminal deforestation activity: monitoring and law enforcement; national systems for registry and monitoring; legal enforcement for compliance of environmental law; International agreements and action; and Involving indigenous communities in combatting deforestation.

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Suggested Citation

Bolton, L. (2020). Criminal activity and deforestation in Latin America. K4D Helpdesk Report 918. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies. DOI: 10.19088/K4D.2021.003


8th December 2020


Continent: South America

Country: Brazil