The thick smoke from forest fires obstructs the view, but there is no way to miss the scene: in front of the Humaitá waterfront, in the south of Amazonas, dozens of gold panning rafts operate illegally on the Madeira River, 24 hours a day.
The activity takes place a few hundred meters from the 54th Army Jungle Infantry Battalion, one of the units participating in Operation Verde Brasil 2, an initiative of the Jair Bolsonaro government to combat environmental crimes in the Amazon.
With a long tradition of mining and a history of violent resistance to inspection, Humaitá, 700 km from Manaus, has another peculiarity. It is the birthplace of the paternal family of the vice president, General of the Army Hamilton Mourão, responsible for Verde Brasil 2.
The crackdown on mining has already provoked strong reactions. In October 2017, miners set the offices the offices and vehicles of Ibama and ICMBio on fire by miners because the operation had destroyed ferries.
Almost three years later, Ibama and ICMBio remain closed. Ibama's headquarters has been taken over by the bush, while ICMBio has just renovated the office building.
Free of federal environmental agencies and without the Army's intervention, at least 70 rafts extracted gold in the stretch of Madeira that cuts through Humaitá in late August, when the report was in the region. As it is an interstate river, the inspection is the federal government.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon