The history of violent land conflicts in Brazil is a long one specially in the state of Pará, in the Brazilian North. At least since 2007, the federal Environmental Protection Institute (Ibama) has been caught up in a running battle in the region.
They are engaged in something close to a guerrilla war, with cattle ranchers and logging operations engaged in illegal deforestation in the state, especially in the area around the city of Altamira.
As a result, Ibama inspectors are constantly harassed as they try to prosecute environmental crimes. They have to face roadblocks and even capture. Recently, the harassment almost turned violent when two armed men wearing bulletproof vests confronted a team of Ibama inspectors.
According to Hugo Américo Schaedler, the manager of the office of the Environmental Protection Institute (Ibama) in Santarém, “Fortunately our men were also armed so nothing happened. But it was a planned ambush that could have had serious consequences for our people,” explained Schaedler.
“We are investing in security in general and the capacity of our personnel. We have to be armed, that means our men nowadays carry weapons and are trained to use them so nothing happens to our people.
“We know this is an area of conflict, where there are security problems in general and where there is a lack of state authority,” declared Schaedler.
“Another problem is the red tape. Our most recent mission, for example, got held up for ten days because of delays in tickets and per diem payments for policemen who were to accompany our agents.
“This is the sort of thing that means lost opportunities to be more effective in our efforts to halt illegal logging and deforestation,” concluded Schaedler.