Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is driven largely by criminal networks that use violence and intimidation against those who try to stop them, and the government is failing to protect both the defenders and the rainforest itself.

Indigenous communities and other local residents have long played an important role in Brazil’s efforts to curb deforestation by alerting authorities to illegal logging activities that might otherwise go undetected. Scaling back environmental enforcement encourages illegal logging and results in greater pressure on local people to take a more active role in defending their forests. In so doing, they put themselves at risk of reprisals.