Brazil
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    Profile

    Brazil

    Capital

    Brasilia

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 1,839,758.04 million

    Income group

    Upper middle income

    Population

    211,049,527

    Area

    8,515,770 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    6.50

    Criminality score

    22nd of 193 countries

    7th of 35 countries in Americas

    4th of 12 countries in South America

    Criminal market

    6.50

    Human trafficking

    5.00

    Human smuggling

    4.00

    Arms trafficking

    8.00

    Flora crimes

    8.50

    Fauna crimes

    8.50

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    8.00

    Heroin trade

    2.00

    Cocaine trade

    9.00

    Cannabis trade

    8.00

    Synthetic drug trade

    4.00

    Criminal actors

    6.50

    Mafia-style groups

    7.50

    Criminal networks

    6.50

    State-embedded actors

    8.50

    Foreign actors

    3.50

    5.04

    Resilience score

    87th of 193 countries

    17th of 35 countries in Americas

    6th of 12 countries in South America

    Political leadership and governance

    3.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    4.50

    International cooperation

    7.50

    National policies and laws

    4.50

    Judicial system and detention

    3.00

    Law enforcement

    5.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.50

    Anti-money laundering

    6.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.00

    Prevention

    4.00

    Non-state actors

    6.50

    5.04 6.50 6.50 5.04 6.50 6.50

    5.04

    Resilience score

    87th of 193 countries

    17th of 35 countries in Americas

    6th of 12 countries in South America

    Political leadership and governance

    3.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    4.50

    International cooperation

    7.50

    National policies and laws

    4.50

    Judicial system and detention

    3.00

    Law enforcement

    5.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.50

    Anti-money laundering

    6.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.00

    Prevention

    4.00

    Non-state actors

    6.50

    Analysis

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    People

    Brazil is a source, transit and destination country for Latin American, Caribbean, African and Chinese human-trafficking victims. Brazilian nationals are victims of trafficking domestically as well as internationally, especially to Spain, Portugal and the United States. Although rarely reported, sexual and labour exploitation, illegal international adoptions and organ trafficking have been recorded. The perpetrators of these crimes are often relatives or friends of the victims, hired by agricultural, industrial or sex-work networks.

    While historically a transit and source country, Brazil has also become a destination country for human smuggling. Socio-economic and political circumstances in Latin America have generated increased migration flows, with the arrival of Bolivians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Haitians in Brazil giving rise to nationalism. The northern Brazilian states were severely affected during the Venezuelan exodus by irregular entrance routes and the forging of documents by smugglers and coyotes. Brazil is a transit country for Cubans, Haitians and others, as well as a source country for those travelling to the US. Large smuggling rings originating in Africa, the Middle East and Asia were recently dismantled.

    Trade

    Brazil is one of the largest producers and exporters of small weapons, many of which are smuggled back into the country from Paraguay, the US, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia and Uruguay. Higher-calibre guns sourced from legal US markets and smuggled via Paraguay or directly to Brazil are used for organized crime, illegal police action and self-defence.

    Brazil is also an exporter of illegal arms, including to Yemen; and its air and sea ports are highly vulnerable to arms trafficking. Many civilian-owned arms are unregistered and the market is plagued by a lack of transparency, inefficiency and corruption. Firearms seized by the police are rarely indexed, but are rather ‘lost’, ‘misplaced’ or stolen.

    The illegal market is controlled primarily by corrupt military and police officers, as well as by transnational crime networks and gangs involved in trafficking across South America. Illegal firearms are readily available, especially to young criminals and organized groups. High homicide rates and violence between criminal actors and security forces are attributed mainly to illegal firearms.

    Environment

    Illegal timber extraction and biopiracy, facilitated by corruption, are significant in Brazil. In the Amazon and Atlantic forests, biopiracy involves scientists, pharmaceutical companies and the food industry. Most timber exported from the Amazon is illegally sourced, with exports destined primarily for the US, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan and the United Kingdom. Extraction, which is often followed by the raising of cattle, involves parallel support activities and large criminal networks, with legal companies often also getting involved in irregular practices. Furthermore, in 2020, forest fires across Brazil’s Amazon increased considerably since the previous year and a significant proportion of the fires were set deliberately, and illegally, by farmers and other agricultural workers as a means of converting rainforest into arable land. In July 2020, revelations that a government official in Brazil had deliberately abandoned the issuing of fines for illegal deforestation has been described as a ‘flashpoint’ for Brazil’s deforestation crisis.

    The Amazon's criminal actors are responsible for murders and violence, particularly of/towards indigenous people, activists and the authorities. Brazil is one of the main origins of illegally traded fauna, especially birds. The market involves individuals who sell fauna to supplement their income. They supply large domestic and international criminal networks, which use corruption and bribery to forge documents and bypass inspections. Fauna including anacondas, turtles, macaws, toucans and snakes is trafficked to the US and Europe for private collectors, scientific purposes, the fashion and souvenir industries, and to be kept as pets. Although the trade endangers ecosystems and risks the spreading of diseases, it is socially accepted.

    A boom in illegal mining for Amazonian gold relies on small-scale miners and larger criminal networks. The illegal market for emeralds, imperial topaz and diamonds is also substantial, with the latter being sold in France, Switzerland and Italy. Brazil is a transit country for gold and diamonds, connecting Venezuela and French Guyana. Venezuelan gold is sometimes legalized in Brazil and exported to India and the United Arab Emirates. The current gold-mining boom is facilitated by permissiveness and the COVID-19 pandemic. Illegal mining causes deforestation, erosion and water contamination, with associated violence, human trafficking and drug smuggling all reported on protected and indigenous Amazonian lands.

    Drugs

    Although Brazil’s cocaine trade is one of largest in the world, it is primarily sourced from Andean countries and trafficked to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania. The domestic market and demand for cocaine base (coca paste) are considerable. Cocaine is the main driver of organized crime, feeding corruption, homicides, money laundering, border-monitoring difficulties and lethal violence perpetrated by criminal groups and security forces.

    For decades, local elites from the border regions have competed with criminal groups to control Brazil’s wholesale cocaine routes. The profits from these operations go to these elites and criminal groups, as well as to illegal state-security markets, Colombian transnational criminal organizations and mafias. While middle-class markets are nonviolent, the urban outskirts and poor neighbourhoods have large and often-violent markets.

    Brazil has the largest cannabis market in Latin America. While some actors also sell cocaine, the two drugs have separate middle- and elite-class circuits. Brazil used to produce a great portion of its cannabis, but following consumption increases, Paraguay has become the main source. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are consumption hubs for imported cannabis, while Colombian cannabis is also traded in the north. Large criminal groups conquered the wholesale market, later also controlling cultivation, but several networks and individuals participate in retail.

    While heroin consumption is sparse in Brazil, occasional seizures indicate that it is used as a transit country, with foreign actors leading transactions. The synthetic-drug market is not prevalent, and use remains limited to the upper-middle and elite classes. A limited amount of international trade occurs on the internet, and domestic networks are involved in small makeshift factories. LSD, Ecstasy and other drugs infrequently come from Europe to Brazil in exchange for cocaine. Brazil has a high incidence of legal pharmaceutical drugs being smuggled from Paraguay. In the Tri-Border Area (TBA) several types of criminal actors are responsible for the market chain.

    Criminal Actors

    The most powerful criminal organization in Brazil, Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), inspired by the Comando Vermelho (CV), was formed as a self-protection group for prisoners. Both organizations exert control from inside prison through corrupt officials and are involved in drug sales, extortion and the supply of public services in marginalized areas. Their significant access to weapons has contributed to state-wide violence, prison riots and massacres. During previous elections, federal forces were called upon to police these groups. The PCC, which is also active in Paraguay, is also involved in bank and car robberies, kidnappings and money laundering.

    White-collar crime groups operate as mafias in Brazil, facilitating corruption and money laundering. Militias, which often include police officers, are involved in extortion and the extrajudicial killing of political candidates. They also control gas supply, public transportation, rented property and illegal gambling. These paramilitary groups are believed to be behind recent political violence. Although predominantly urban, they are hired by businesses and landowners in rural areas to forcefully drive out residents.

    State-actor participation in criminal markets is key to their success, as illustrated by the militias’ use of state resources, and their financing and appointing of political candidates, as well as their coercion of voters. White-collar crimes, including the negotiation of public contracts, also involve government officials. With regard to foreign actors, the TBA and Amazon regions are home to domestic and foreign criminal activity. Foreign networks, especially those controlling drug markets in destination countries, use domestic actors as facilitators.

    Leadership and governance

    Although organized crime has been a government priority, Brazil is unable to provide governance in many low-income urban areas. Strategies to tackle political and developmental failures are lacking, and the overwhelming number of legal cases has led to impunity. Current counter-organized-crime initiatives focus on punitive strategies and militarized operations. Some of President Jair Bolsonaro's policies on relaxing legislation related to the possession of weapons and incentivizing mining in indigenous lands are likely to have had a negative impact on security. Historically, Brazil suffers from corruption, with political leadership exercised through patronage systems and congressional give-and-take deals. Levels of violence throughout the country remained high, with homicides increasing in 2020 on the previous year and attacks on politicians escalating during municipal elections in November.

    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous allegations of corrupt practices have been made regarding high-level state officials and public-procurement processes. The democratic process has been captured by criminal organizations, with members of the PCC and CV crime groups suspected of running as electoral candidates. Although courts are independent and clash frequently with Brazil’s executive branch, they have been accused of political bias in anti-corruption operations and their instruments of prosecution are not very effective in deterring corruption or organized crime. While access to information appears robust, there has been a notable decline in transparency generally in almost all areas, including with regard to public health, the environment and public security, among others.

    Brazil has signed and ratified numerous treaties and conventions regarding arms, drug and human trafficking, and has extradition agreements with a number of countries, as well as a Southern Common Market agreement. Brazil also has cooperation agreements with international agencies and governments, as well as domestic laws and institutions related to fighting organized crime. The General Prosecutor’s Office, courts, media and human-rights organizations are generally independent and able to investigate political corruption and criminal violence.

    Regulatory and procedural legislation is generally robust, although the judiciary lacks capacity and suffers from inefficiency, corruption and patronage. Brazil’s penal code outlaws criminal associations, and other laws are in place to combat transnational criminal organizations, environmental crimes, unauthorized weaponry, drug trafficking, money laundering, the adulteration of medicines and food, and human exploitation.

    Criminal justice and security

    Regardless of the shortcomings within the judicial system, including high levels of corruption and political overreach into the judiciary, institutions including the Attorney General’s Office and the federal police seem fairly effective in investigating crime. Prisons, however, suffer from overcrowding and high pre-trial detention rates. Although a special detention regime exists for members of criminal groups, the precarious conditions in many of Brazil’s prisons have contributed to their being controlled by criminals. Additionally, the expansion of criminalization policies and militarized police strategies have not been accompanied by corresponding judicial-processing capacities. Although their budget is comparatively high, the police are underequipped when it comes to investigating organized crime. Specialized counter-organized-crime units exist within the military police, the federal police and the Rio de Janeiro police. The national force, consisting of police and firefighters, assists in volatile situations, including elections. However, militarized public-security approaches have resulted in low public trust, compounded by inefficient cooperation between Brazil’s various police forces. In June 2020, the Supreme Court announced a ban on police raids in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the ruling was often ignored by police forces and hundreds of people were killed.

    Brazil’s extremely porous borders, shared with 10 countries, feature jungles, rivers and lakes, encompassing major transnational drug-trafficking routes. The TBA represents a major cluster of criminal activity, particularly for the smuggling of drugs and other illegal goods. The Attorney General’s Office and the federal police have apprehended criminals operating in this area, yet criminal activity remains extensive. The armed forces have long-standing plans to build a border-monitoring infrastructure, but the authorities also face challenges trying to maintain an effective presence elsewhere, particularly in inner-city areas.

    Economic and financial environment

    Brazil is at moderate risk for money laundering and terrorist financing. It has a good track record in prosecuting cases involving criminal organizations and high-level corruption, and its anti-money-laundering laws have been modified in a bid to improve prosecution for the concealment of goods, but overall, the state’s capacity to investigate money laundering remains low. Although the institution dealing with suspicious financial transactions has been praised, accountability is still a concern.

    Businesses are permitted to register online and the sharing of information has improved. Although the government has taken steps to simplify bureaucracy, reform the pension systems and prosecute tax avoidance, Brazil’s complex laws and regulations, high taxes and bureaucracy have resulted in slow economic growth. Overall, the state’s capacity to regulate the economy effectively is relatively low, as evidenced by the sizeable informal economy which facilitates the growth and development of organized criminal actors.

    Civil society and social protection

    While Brazil has programmes that provide support, healthcare and psychological assistance for the victims and witnesses of crime, more could be done to assist those trying to escape from what essentially amounts to modern-day slavery. Crime victims are sometimes treated as criminals themselves, or are even killed by the police. Furthermore, while a witness protection programme exists, it is not effective in practice. Campaigns to raise awareness about fauna-related crimes, as well as drug and human trafficking, have been developed by government and non-state institutions, which work with the congress and senate to support changes in legislation. However, complex prevention mechanisms including socio-economic development policies are rare, and prisons and gated communities continue to host crime bosses. Furthermore, attorneys working in the Amazon have consistently noted the difficulties in preventing illicit activity in the region, due in part to a lack of agreements in place and cooperation between the state and the private sector.

    Civil-society organizations in urban areas provide legal advice, education and health services as a response to state neglect. Elsewhere, activists and indigenous leaders who fight to protect the environment are subject to harassment and killings. The media and non-governmental organizations have criticized the state’s security forces for heavy-handed operations against organized crime; and although the media consistently denounces corruption, its coverage of organized crime is weak. Brazil is one of Latin America’s most violent countries for the media, with journalists often being the victims of threats, attacks and assassinations. Investigative journalists are often subjected to abusive judicial proceedings and attacks on their sources. Media ownership remains concentrated in the hands of large business families with close connections to the political elite.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.