Brazil runs the risk of losing control over its vast Amazon rainforest region to organized crime and traffickers who use the lawless region to smuggle drugs, a Supreme Court judge warned on Wednesday.
Justice Luis Roberto Barroso urged the international community to contribute funding and ideas to foster sustainable development that would preserve the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest, and help the 25 million people who live there.
The Amazon absorbs vast amounts of greenhouse gas responsible for global warming and its preservation is seen as essential to the fight against climate change.
"There is a real risk of losing the sovereignty of the Amazon not to any other country, but to organized crime," he said in an interview.
Barroso, who attended COP27 United Nations climate talks in Egypt in November, said international funding did not impinge on Brazilian sovereignty over the Amazon as Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has stated.
On the contrary, foreign support is needed to stop the degradation of the rainforest and help the Brazilian state restore law and order in the Amazon.
"Brazilian authorities will have to be very committed to confronting environmental crimes such as illegal logging and mining, deforestation, land grabs and the murder of defenders of the forest," Barroso said.
Under Bolsonaro, illegal activities have surged in the Amazon, encouraged by the easing of environmental protections and reduced funding for enforcement agencies.
Bolsonaro's government has also paralyzed the Amazon Fund, to which Norway and Germany contributed more than $1 billion for the support of sustainable projects in the region.
The fund will restart when President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in the October elections, takes office in January. Lula has pledged to end the criminal impunity in the Amazon.
"The preservation of the Amazon is essential for the world. I defend that the world contributes to the preservation of the Amazon," Barroso said.