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The 13 Fastest Superyachts in the World

These boats prove that size doesn't have to mean slow..

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13 Fastest superyachts

When American businessman John Staluppi embarked on his yachting journey, it was to break records. He wanted his first yacht to be the first boat over 100 feet to exceed 30 knots, or 34.5 mph. He achieved it with the 118-foot For Your Eyes Only, delivered in 1985. It was also the first motoryacht in the US to have a combination of MTU diesel engines with water-jet propulsion.

His second yacht would smash all previous records. Delivered by Heesen in 1988, Octopussy fulfilled the Bond enthusiast’s aim to break the then 50-knot barrier with a top end of 53.17 knots (61 mph)—a speed that every other shipyard at the time said couldn’t be done. Octopussy  immediately entered the record books as the world’s fastest yacht.

“That record was important to me because when you pull into any place there’s always a bigger boat or a prettier boat, but there aren’t many people who can say, ‘Hey, this is the fastest yacht in the world,’” Staluppi told Robb Report .

Heesen’s latest delivery, the 197-foot Ultra G , is one of the Dutch yard’s fastest projects these days, with a propulsion package totaling 22,000 horsepower, including four water jets that deliver a top speed of 37 knots (42.57 mph).

Of course, 43 mph is a paltry number compared to many of the yachts on this list, including the new Bolide 80. That Italian stallion, which will make its debut at the Monaco Yacht Show, runs at a blistering 84 mph. It shows that speed, even in the large motoryacht category, is very much alive.

Here are 13 of the fastest motoryachts, past and present, that have ever been on the water.

1. Bolide 80 | 84 mph

fast yachts brasil

Victory Marine calls the Bolide 80 its first “Hyper Muscle Yacht,” which will be part of a limited-edition series from 60 to 170 feet. Designer Brunello Acampora and his tema of engineers pulled out all the stops on this 80, creating a full-carbon-fiber boat with more than 6,000 horsepower. The multi-stepped hull helps propel the Bolide to its top speed of 70 knots (84 mph), while accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of burning about half the fuel of a much smaller flybridge motoryacht at lower cruising speeds. The designer took care to give the Bolide a streamlined profile, with aerodynamic shapes to reduce resistance. The interior includes the captain’s cabin, a full-sized galley, open salon, and a forward owner’s area with a bedroom, en suite and wardrobe area. It will make its global debut at the Monaco Yacht Show.

2. ‘Foners’ | 80.56 mph

fast yachts brasil

Clocking a thrilling 70.10 knots (80.56 mph), the 136-foot Foners has maintained pole position as the world’s fastest superyacht for over 20 years. Powered by two 1,280hp MAN engines coupled to three Rolls-Royce 6,700 hp gas turbines driving three KaMeWa water jets, the all-aluminum boat is less about piercing waves and more about parting the seas. Delivered in 2000 by Spanish shipyard Izar as the King of Spain’s royal yacht, no expense was spared, including a superstructure lined with Aramid fiber for the express purpose of bulletproofing the interior.

3. ‘World Is Not Enough’ | 77.1 mph

fast yachts brasil

You need to only look at the 007-inspired name to know that World Is Not Enough is another rapid racer commissioned by John Staluppi, this time with an opulent interior designed by his wife Jeanette in partnership with Evan K Marshall. Delivered in 2004 by Millennium Super Yachts, the 139-footer is powered by two Paxman diesel engines and two Lycoming gas turbines to produce a staggering 20,600hp and a breathtaking 67 knots (77.1 mph). When not leaving other boats behind, World Is Not Enough has a cruising range of 3800 nautical miles at a comfortable speed of 10 knots.

4. ‘Galeocerdo’ | 74.8 mph

fast yachts brasil

Wally founder Luca Bassani designed the 118-foot Galeocerdo to maintain speed in rough seas. Launched in 2003 by Rodriquez Yachts, the boat racks up an eye-watering 65 knots (74.8 mph), thanks to its three Vericor TF50 gas turbines, each driving a Rolls-Royce KaMeWa water jet. Another performance-enhancing feature is the lightweight titanium exhaust system designed to resist the extreme temperatures generated by the gas turbines. Wind tunnel tested at the Ferrari facility in Maranello, Italy, the boat generates 16,800hp and a 45-knot (51.8-mph) cruising speed that’s faster than most motoryachts running flat out. It also enjoys a highly futuristic exterior design.

5. Tecnomar for Lamborghini 63 | 72.5 mph

fast yachts brasil

When Italian supercar brand Lamborghini teamed up with yachting stalwart The Italian Sea Group, the end result had to be style and performance. The Tecnomar for Lamborghini 63 is all about the power of ‘63’. Designed and built to celebrate the year 1963 when Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his car company, the 63-footer delivers a whiplashing top speed of 63 knots (72.5 mph). And naturally, it’s one of just 63 in the series that will ever be made. Built out of carbon fiber, it’s fitted with two MAN V12-2000HP engines. MMA fighter Conor McGregor took delivery of hull number one in 2020, which reportedly cost $4 million.

6. ‘Chato’ | 71.9 mph

fast yachts brasil

Back in the mid-1980s, passionate Baglietto customer and leading US Porsche and VW dealer Baron John von Neumann, commissioned a new 85-ft. speed demon from the Italian builder. The entrepreneur was tired of his 34-knot (39-mph) Baglietto getting creamed from Monaco to St. Tropez by faster cruisers. With a hull design by the legendary Alcide Sculati, the all-aluminum Chato came with MTU’s latest 3,480hp V16s coupled to KaMeWa waterjets. Weighing 60 tons, and packing almost 7,000 hp, the military-looking superyacht with its battleship-gray paint and bright-red diagonal hull stripes, hit an astonishing top speed of 62.5 knots (71.9 mph) during sea trials. Chato is currently for sale in the South of France for $715,000.

7. ‘Oci Ciornie’ | 69.04 mph

fast yachts brasil

Oci Ciornie’s Vripack-designed interior may take inspiration from aircraft designs, but it’s the boat’s naval architecture by Don Shead and the combination of two 1,800hp MTU 16V 2000 M90 engines, a 4,600 hp AVCO Lycoming gas turbine and Arneson surface drives that put it on this list. Delivered in 1998 by Palmer Johnson with an aluminum hull, the 82-foot boat thrusts through water at 60 knots (69.04 mph), giving all eight guests the waterborne ride of their lives.

8. ‘Destriero’ | 68 mph

fast yachts brasil

The numbers almost defy logic. With a length of 224 feet, the all-aluminum superyacht Destriero is massive. Now add a trio of GE Aviation LM1600 gas turbines totaling an insane 60,000 hp and the incredulity only increases. Flat out, Destriero could scythe through waves at a staggering 59 knots, or 68 mph. Back in 1992, just one year after its launch, the Fincantieri-built rocketship showed its chops by challenging the famous Blue Riband trans-Atlantic speed record. Averaging 53.09 knots for the 3,106 nautical-mile run, Destriero shattered the record, only to be denied the trophy for being classed as a private yacht and not a commercial passenger vessel. Sadly, today the iconic yacht lies largely abandoned at one of Lurssen’s yards in Germany, awaiting rescue.

9. ‘Ermis²’ | 65.59 mph

fast yachts brasil

Some yachts feature slippery hull designs, others are propelled by rockets, but the McMullen & Wing-built Ermis² is one of the fastest yachts on the superyacht circuit thanks to its lightweight materials. Built from a combination of carbon/epoxy, aerospace grade carbon fiber and titanium, the 123-foot boat taps out at 57 knots (65.59 mph.) Delivered in 2007, its 10,944 horsepower comes from three MTU 16V 4000 M90 engines. Designed inside and out by Rob Humphreys, its classic looks disguise the speed demon within.

10. ‘Why Not U’ | 63.3 mph

fast yachts brasil

Why Not U is a yacht that comfortably cruises at 47 knots (54.1 mph)—a speed most owners only dream of reaching. When time is of the essence, the boat cranks up its Vericor TF40 gas turbine engines to max out at 55 knots (63.3 mph). Delivered by Overmarine in 2001, Why Not U ’s 4.3-foot draft makes it well suited for cruising shallow waters, while its sunbathing areas allow guests to catch some rays traveling at the speed of light.

11. ‘Alamshar’ | 52 mph

fast yachts brasil

Alamshar is another custom collaboration between Donald Blount and Pininfarina commissioned by Aga Khan IV, this time with interiors by Redman Whiteley Dixon. It was reportedly built for an estimated $200 million at the Devonport shipyard in Falmouth, United Kingdom, and took 13 years to complete. When it was eventually delivered in 2014, Alamshar’s top speed of 45 knots (51.78 mph), generated by twin Rolls-Royce Marine engines and three waterjets, seemed worth the wait.

12. ‘Moon Goddess’ | 51.78 mph

fast yachts brasil

Exterior designed by Espen Øino with an interior by Franco Zuretti, the all-aluminum Moon Goddess is a 115-foot yacht with a turquoise hull that matches the color of its oversized leather sunpads. When cruising at 30 knots (34.52 mph) or tearing up the oceans at 45 knots (51.78 mph), most other boats just catch a glimpse of sea spray that the planing yacht leaves in its wake. It’s powered by twin MTU 16V 4000 M90 diesel engines with twin water jets, which generate a combined 7,498 hp.

13. ‘Azzam’ | 35.7 mph

fast yachts brasil

At a staggering 590 feet bow-to-stern, the Lurssen-built Azzam earns the title of world’s longest privately owned gigayacht. But with its remarkable-for-the-size top speed of 31 knots (35.7 mph), it’s also the fastest. Twin 12,000hp MTU V20 turbo-diesels do the day-to-day powering at up to 18 knots (20.7 mph). But crank up the twin GE LM2500 gas turbines, coupled to four Wartsila waterjets, and there’s a staggering 94,000hp on tap. Of course, like Azzam ‘s original owner, it helps if you own a few oil wells: At max speed, the yacht reportedly burns 13 tons of fuel an hour. Launched in 2013 at a reported cost of some $600 million, Azzam accommodates 30 guests pampered by up to 80 crew.

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Brazil Charter Yacht

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40m  /  131'3   heesen   1993 / 2022.

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Cabin Configuration

Special Features:

  • Impressive 3,000nm range
  • Recent refit in 2022
  • Sleeps 10 guests
  • 9.5m/31'2" Scanner Tender
  • Able to access shallow bays and coves
Luxury yacht Brazil is the perfect charter platform for yachting vacations spent entertaining in style

The 43.5m/142'9" motor yacht 'Brazil' by the Dutch shipyard Heesen offers flexible accommodation for up to 10 guests in 5 cabins and features interior styling by Art Line.

Motor yacht Brazil boasts a wealth of convivial spaces, perfect for luxury yacht charters with families of friends, offering ample opportunities to kick back and relax, or enjoy the water on the yacht's array of water toys, the choice is yours.

Guest Accommodation

Built in 1993, Brazil offers guest accommodation for up to 10 guests in 5 suites comprising a master suite, two double cabins and two twin cabins. There are 7 beds in total, including 1 king, 2 queen and 4 singles. She is also capable of carrying up to 8 crew onboard to ensure a relaxed luxury yacht charter experience.

Onboard Comfort & Entertainment

Brazil benefits from some excellent features to improve your charter including Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to stay connected at all times, should you wish. Guests will experience complete comfort while chartering thanks to air conditioning.

Performance & Range

Built with a aluminium hull and aluminium superstructure, she benefits from a semi-displacement hull to provide exceptional seakeeping and impressive speeds. Powered by twin MTU engines, she comfortably cruises at 14 knots, reaches a maximum speed of 19 knots with a range of up to 3,000 nautical miles from her 61,500 litre fuel tanks at cruising speed. Her low draft of 2.2m/7'3" makes her primed for accessing shallow areas and cruising close to the shorelines.

When not cruising Brazil has onboard an incredible selection of water toys and accessories for you and your guests to connect with the waters around you. Take to the sea on the Jet Skis offering you power and control on the water. Another excellent feature are waterskis that are hugely entertaining whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro. In addition there are wakeboards so guests can show off at speed. If that isn't enough Brazil also features kayaks, fishing equipment and snorkelling equipment. Brazil also sports a 9.5m/31'2" Scanner Tender to transport you with ease.

Brazil offers you and your guests the perfect platform from which to enjoy your next luxury yacht charter. Please enquire for details of her summer and forthcoming winter cruising grounds and availability.

With its luxurious interiors, vast array of onboard facilities and a highly-trained and professional crew, a luxury yacht vacation onboard motor yacht Brazil promises to be nothing short of spectacular.


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Brazil Photos

Brazil Yacht 11

Length 40m / 131'3
Beam 8.48m / 27'10
Draft 2.2m / 7'3
Gross Tonnage 369 GT
Cruising Speed 14 Knots
Built | (Refitted)
Builder Heesen
Model Custom
Exterior Designer The A Group
Interior Design Art Line, Claudette Bonville

Amenities & Entertainment

For your relaxation and entertainment Brazil has the following facilities, for more details please speak to your yacht charter broker.

Brazil is reported to be available to Charter with the following recreation facilities:

  • 1 x 9.5m  /  31'2 Scanner Tender (max speed 60 knots)

For a full list of all available amenities & entertainment facilities, or price to hire additional equipment please contact your broker.

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  • Entertainment

Brazil is reported to be available to Charter with the following entertainment facilities:

MY Brazil has had major upgrades regarding her entertainment and communications system onboard. Flat screens in all cabins, main salon and Skybar including Apple powered TV boxes (Netflix etc.). Also an extensive offline music/movies and series library on demand. Throughout the vessel sound equipment has been upgraded to the latest SONOS players which are accessible through smartphones or tablets to play your own playlists.

For a full list of all available amenities & entertainment facilities, or price to hire additional equipment please contact your broker.

'Brazil' Charter Rates & Destinations

Summer Season

May - September

€93,000 p/week + expenses Approx $99,500

High Season

€99,000 p/week + expenses Approx $106,000

Cruising Regions

Please enquire .

Winter Season

October - April

Charter Brazil

To charter this luxury yacht contact your charter broker , or we can help you.

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The 20 Fastest SuperYachts in the World

By Alex Holmes

Updated on August 14, 2023

Fastest Superyachts

Yachts were always associated with leisure, comfort, and luxury, floating gently in a gorgeous location or cruising unhurried to the next, but somewhere along the way, something changed. Yachts started becoming faster and more powerful, and their owners more obsessed with these characteristics than anything else. But that’s the way with every kind of vehicle these days, isn’t it?

Mankind is obsessed with speed. That’s a given. And it applies to everything, including superyachts, which, despite their size, can achieve impressive speeds over water.

Whether that speed is actually needed is debatable, but one can’t ignore that there are quite a few capable yachts out there and that the competition for the fastest superyacht in the world is a fierce one, as in everything that involves the man’s thirst for speed.

The following superyachts manage to blend both the need for speed and the craving for luxury. But these are above everything else, the fastest yachts in the world right now.

Let’s have a look.

  • 20. Cara Montana – 45 knots

Cara Montana Yacht

Cara Montana is a smaller yacht, manufactured in 2019 by a shipyard based in Genoa, called Otam. It’s a gorgeous maritime vehicle which spans only 25.9 meters in length, but is beautiful and powerful enough to impress.

Powered by twin MTU engines, outputting a total of 5,200 hp together, and equipped with twin surface drives, Cara Montana is able to reach a top speed of 45 knots, or just under 52 mph.

  • 19. Alamshar – 45 knots

Alamshar yacht

Completed in 2014 after a waiting time of 13 years spent in the manufacturing process, the Alamshar yacht can reach 45 knots, thanks to its twin Rolls-Royce Marine engines and three waterjets.

The naval architecture of the vessel was made by Donald L. Blount & Associates, the exterior design by Pininfarina, and the interior by Redman Whiteley Dixon. The whole project was put together by the Devonport shipyard in Falmouth, United Kingdom.

The Alamshar is 50 meter long, and costed a jaw dropping $200 million, paid by Aga Khan IV, for whom the custom yacht was made.

  • 18. Moon Goddess – 45 knots

Moon Goddess Yacht

Another lovely vessel from the superyacht world is the Moon Goddess. It’s on the smaller size, being only 35 meter long, but it’s capable of reaching 45 knots. The ship was built by Danish Yachts, with the naval architecture and exterior designs made by Espen Øino, a superyacht design icon.

The Moon Goddess can take up to six guests in three posh cabins, two twins and one for the owner, plus a crew of five. It’s propelled to a cruise speed of 25 knots, or the maximum of 45, by twin MTU 16V 4000 M90 diesel engines which generate a combined 7,498 hp.

  • 17. Shergar – 45 knots

Shergar Yacht

The acclaimed German shipyard Lürssen built Shergar in 1983 to be among the fastest yachts in the world. Decades later, it still holds its own among better and more technological advanced vessels.

Equipped with two MTU 12V 396 TB83 diesel power plants, and two Allison 571-KF gas turbines, the Shergar is capable of cruising at 40 knots and reaching a top speed of 45 knots.

  • 16. Seafire – 46 knots

Seafire Yacht

Seafire is a super yacht manufactured by AB Yachts, an Italian shipyard known for some impressive vessels. This one is among their fastest, able to reach a top speed of 46 knots.

The 42 meter super yacht is powered by a setup of three MTU 16V M94 units and three waterjets, giving it the possibility to cruise at an impressive speed of 43 knots, only 3 below its top speed.

  • 15. Octopussy 007 – 53.2 knots

Octopussy 007

Built back in 1988 by the renowned Dutch shipyard Heesen Yachts and carrying a little of James Bond in its name, the Octopussy 007 is a 43.5 meter super yacht that can accommodate up to 10 guests and 7 crew members.

The vessel is powered by three MTU diesel engines that deliver 10,440 hp together, propelling the Octopussy forward at a cruising speed of 25 knots and a top speed of 53.2 knots.

It was on display at multiple boat shows around the world, and it changed owners for the last time in 2021. The naval architecture was done by Mulder Design, the exterior by Gerhard Gilgenast, and the interior by Art Line and Joachim Kinder Yacht Design.

Inside, it comes with 5 posh and extremely comfortable guest cabins, 1 master, 1 twin, and 3 double.

  • 14. Daloli – 54 knots

Daloli Yacht

The Daloli, also known as Pandion, built by Heesen Yachts, is a 36.5 vessel that enters the category of super yachts and impresses with a top speed of 54 knots, the equivalent of just over 62 mph.

The ship has a crew capacity of 6 and can host up to 8 passengers. There’s four cabins in total on its three decks, and the sheer beauty of its design can be seen both inside and on the outside.

It’s a real beauty, and a fast one as well.

  • 13. Why Not U – 55 knots

Why Not U

Originally named Nobody, the Why Not U was designed in 2001 by Overmarine as a deluxe super yacht that’s capable of getting his 9 guests and 3 crew to their next dream destination with a top speed of 55 knots. The power comes from a setup of Vericor TF40 gas turbine engines.

When it comes to living on it, it offers an impressive range of amenities on its teak decks. There’s several dining spots, entertainment and lounge rooms, sun bathing areas, and plenty more to be had on board of this stunning super yacht.

  • 12. Ermis² – 57 knots

Ermis² Yacht

The 37.5 meter super yacht Ermis², manufactured from special materials by the New Zealand shipyard McMullen & Wing, is among the fastest vessels out there, capable of a top speed of 57 knots, which is just a little over 65 mph.

The ship came out in 2007, but is still among the most innovative yachts in the world given the mix of composite materials, aerospace grade carbon fiber and titanium for its lightweight body.

That low weight, combined with the 10,944 hp outputted by the three MTU 16V 4000 M90 engines, allow this stunning yacht to reach that max speed of 57 knots.

  • 11. Chato – 57 knots

Chato Yacht

Chato is another small sized and powerful super yacht. It was built in 1986 by Baglietto from aluminium and was equipped with twin MTU 16V 396 TB94 diesel engines, which push it to a cruise speed of 35 knots and a max speed of 57 knots.

Chato is only 25.79 meters long, and that helps with a lower weight and a smaller profile under the surface of the water.

  • 10. Azimut Atlantic Challenger – 60 knots

Azimut Atlantic Challenger

The Azimut Atlantic Challenger strays away from the usual design of luxury yachts, but that only because it was built for a very different purpose, which was to win the Blue Riband award, an unofficial accolade given to a ship for making the fastest transatlantic crossing.

Unfortunately, the Azimut Atlantic Challenger failed to win, but it remained one of the fastest super yachts in the world, currently holding the 10th position, with a top speed of 60 knots.

It was built in 1988 by the Italian shipyard Benetti, with the exterior designed by Pininfarina. It’s a 26.82 meter aluminum monohull vessel and is powered by four CRM diesel engines, capable of outputting a combined 7,400 hp.

  • 9. Jet Ruban Bleu – 60 knots

Jet Ruban Bleu Yacht

The French built Jet Ruban Bleu is on par with the Azimut Atlantic Challenger and two other super yachts, at least when it comes to the top speed. They can all do 60 knots.

Jet Ruban Bleu is 25 meter long, was designed by Gilles Ollier and Coste Design & Partners and created by Multiplast. It was outfitted with a single MTU engine capable of 3,500 hp alone.

  • 8. Oci Ciornie – 60 Knots

Oci Ciornie Yacht

Oci Ciornie was a super yacht project that was realized by American shipyard Palmer Johnson, the Dutch Vripack, and the well known naval architect Don Shead in 1998.

The vessel features an aluminum hull, and uses two 1,800 hp MTU 16V 2000 M90 engines, a 4,600 hp AVCO Lycoming gas turbine, plus Arneson surface drives. This combination propels the Oci Ciornie with a top speed of 60 knots.

The ship is able to carry up to eight guests in a master suite, a double cabin, and a twin room. There’s a nice and streamlined deck that features a superb saloon and outside areas for relaxation, while the interior takes inspiration from aircraft designs.

  • 7. Brave Challenger – 60 Knots

Brave Challenger Yacht

With the same 60 knot top speed of the above ships, the Brave Challenger is to be lauded, since it’s much older, being built back in 1960. The project was completed by Vosper Ltd in Portsmouth, United Kingdom, with the intention of becoming a Brave Class fast patrol boat. It was only later that the ship was converted for private use.

The Brave Challenger is powered by three Rolls-Royce Proteus gas turbines, which output a total of 13,500 hp, which combined with the only 31 meter length and lower weight, can push the boat to the top speed of 60 knots.

  • 6. Kereon – 62.3 Knots

Kereon Yacht

The Italian yard AB Yachts, the one behind Seafire above at number 16, built in 2004 one of the fastest super yachts in the world, the Kereon. It’s capable of hitting a top speed of 62.3 knots, and that thanks to the three CRM diesel engines that produce a good 6,300 hp.

Since the total power is so low in comparison to others on this list, it makes sense that a shorter length of 27 meters and a performant hull design are at play to aid in reaching those speeds.

The ship has a very sporty aesthetic, all metallic silver, and can cruise at 50 knots for about 900 miles.

  • 5. Gentry Eagle – 63.5 knots

Gentry Eagle Yacht

Gentry Eagle was a special project done by Vosper Thornycroft in 1988 for the legendary Tom Gentry, who achieved almost everything he could achieve in terms of powerboat speed records during his lifetime, including the coveted Blue Riband. The vessel, capable of 63.5 knots, helped him win the Blue Riband in 1989, with a record time of 62 hours and 7 minutes.

Gentry Eagle’s design was done by Grant Robinson and Peter Birkett, with the interior by Robin Rose. In 1992, the ship became a private super yacht.

  • 4. Galeocerdo – 65 Knots

Galeocerdo Yacht

Galeocerdo is a very futuristic looking ship, with sleek lines and a hull designed to maintain high speeds in rough sea conditions. It measures 36 meters in length, and is capable of hitting 65 knots.

The vessel was built in 2003 in Italy, by Rodriguez Yachts and is powered by three Vericor TF50 gas turbines, each tied to a Rolls-Royce Kamewa water jet. The total power output rises to a whooping 16,800 hp.

  • 3. Destriero – 66 knots

Destriero Yacht

Destriero was launched back in 1991 by the Italian shipyard Fincantieri. It has a length of 68.18 meters and features a design made by Pininfarina and Donald Blount. This ship was again built with the sole purpose of winning the Blue Riband by breaking the old record of crossing the Atlantic.

She did it in 1992, after it crossed the ocean twice without refueling, setting a new record of 58 hours, 34 minutes, and 5 seconds. but the Blue Riband award was denied for her, since it’s awarded only to passenger vessels and not private yachts.

What allowed Destriero to set a new record was the power of 54,000 hp, given by the Codag engine and the three GE Aviation LM1600 gas turbines, pushing the ship to a max speed of 66 knots, or 76 mph.

  • 2. World Is Not Enough – 67 Knots

World Is Not Enough yacht

The Dutch superyacht World Is Not Enough, built in 2004 by Millenium Super Yachts, comes second place with a top speed of 67 knots. The vessel is powered by two Paxman diesel engines and two Lycoming gas turbines, which give an output of 20,600 hp, and a good 3800 nautical miles cruising range at a cruising speed of 10 knots.

With its 42.4 meters of luxury and beauty, World Is Not Enough can accommodate up to 10 guests and 7 crew members in five extravagant cabins, offering plenty of comfort and areas for relaxation. The vessel features formal dining spaces, indoor bar, and al fresco dining and lounge areas on all decks, for the ultimate pleasure away from civilization.

  • 1. Foners – 70.1 knots

Foners Yacht

The Foners is currently the fastest super yacht in the world, with a 70.1 knots top speed, keeping the first spot since its delivery back in 2000. The power behind its top speed comes from two MAN engines and three Rolls Royce gas turbines, combining together to output a whooping 21,380 hp.

Her cruising speed is 12 knots, and allows her to reach a range of 1,800 nautical miles.

But of course speed isn’t everything here, as the eye is impressed a lot when stepping on board. Built by the Spanish shipyard Izar, Foners comes with splendid interiors, formal dining rooms, and plenty of space on the decks for al fresco dining. Its 6 crew and up to 8 guests can be accommodated on board, in luxurious cabins.

These are the fastest super yachts in the world, a competition that keeps on going, dominated for the last two decades by the Spanish vessel Foners.

As technology progresses, it will be interesting to see how it holds up against newer yachts.

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About Alex Holmes

With over 10 years of experience in media and publishing, Alex is Luxatic's director of content, overlooking everything related to reviews, special features, buying guides, news briefs and pretty much all the other content that can be found on our website. Learn more about Luxatic's Editorial Process .

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Bolide by VICTORY DESIGN is now by far the fastest yacht; speeds up to 76 knots have been recorded by this 80ft full carbon pleasure Yacht, powered by three MAN V12 2000 diesel engines.

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Azimut Yachts strengthens presence in Brazil

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The Brazilian luxury market is expanding and there is a growing focus on the superyacht lifestyle. World renowned Italian yacht builders Azimut Yachts are now planning to expand their presence in the South American country.

Azimut Yachts has proudly announced that it will be playing a leading role in yachting in Brazil, welcoming the growing demand head on. The Italian Shipyard has always maintained a high level of quality within their productions, having built such triumphs as the 36m Shalimar and the 31m Antonia II alongside a portfolio of truly impressive designs.

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What Are The Fastest Sailboats? (Complete List)

What Are The Fastest Sailboats? (Complete List) | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Whenever you are looking into buying a sailboat, they often tell you how fast it can go. So naturally, customers want to know, what are the fastest sailboats?

Depending on the model and brand of a sailboat, in addition to the right conditions out on the water, this answer can vary. But which sailboats are known to be the fastest?

Each style of sailboat has its advantages that make it fast. The V.O 60, X-Yachts X4.0, and Beneteau Oceanis 30.1 are great examples of fast monohull boats. For multihull boats, Rapido 60 (Trimaran), Dragonfly 40 (Trimaran), and ICE Cat 61 (Catamaran) are some of the fastest in that category.

The list can go on when you are talking about specialized performance boats, foiling boats, and even windsurfers. However, the most common sailboats that people can relate to are either monohulls or multihulls.

According to sailing experts, fast can mean 12 knots if you are only used to going about half that speed. But when you speak about the fastest sailboats, they usually top around 30 knots or more out on the water.

Table of contents

‍ What Makes a Sailboat Fast?

A lot of variables come into play to help a sailboat reach its maximum potential for going fast. While the person running the boat is the one responsible for making it go fast, the weather conditions and type of boat have to be good in order to reach top speeds.

If a boat is not designed to handle rougher conditions, you will struggle with performance in those situations. If you have a boat that is built for anything nature throws at it, you might have better stability but considerably less speed even in good conditions.

Weight and Power of Boat

If you were to have two objects with different weights and put the same amount of force on them, the lighter object moves faster. This is why lighter boats move quicker than heavier boats.

So if you were to put two boats at one end of a race head to head with the same conditions of wind and sailing area, the lighter boat wins. This is because the lighter boat is able to gain speed quickly due to the less weight it holds.

The weight of the hull is only one part of the equation, as the mast can hold a lot of weight too. If there is a way to reduce the weight on the boat, you will have a better chance at going faster.

This is why fast boats typically are made out of materials such as carbon fiber or fiberglass. If the boat is a multi-hull without a keel, this also cuts down on weight.

Friction and Wetted Surface

Water adds a ton of friction to the boat, so a fast boat needs to be able to cut through it efficiently. In addition, some boats have finely polished exteriors to help glide through the water and reduce drag.

Depending on the shape of the hull and how much wetter surface it has can greatly affect the amount of drag it has. For example, displacement hulls change as the boat heels in the water.

For multihulls, these lift the hull out of the water slightly to reduce drag. Hydrofoils are another example that lifts the entire boat out of the water to greatly reduce the wetted surface.

Sail Area and Wind

The bigger the sails are on a boat does not necessarily mean the boat will be the fastest. While the sailing area is critical for speed, it has to match the sailing area to displacement ratio.

The sail area needs to be more about the lift of the sails rather than the size of them. If the proper sails are there, then the boat should be able to reach its maximum potential if the wind conditions are right.

Fastest Sailboat Types

The type of sailboat makes a big difference in speed since it has different characteristics. These include HP monohulls, catamarans, and trimarans.

Each boat type will have a unique position in the water, making it potentially faster than another type. If you want to compare boats in perfect conditions, you can see how one stacks up to another.

HP Monohulls

HP monohulls gain a lot of their speed by being powered by a motor. While they have the capability to sail using the wind, they have the convenience of a motor to help push them along.

So the outboard motor needs to be able to handle the weight of the boat efficiently in order to help reach top speeds. A lot of larger boats need to be pushed along by multiple motors.

Monohulls in general are favored by many sailors since they have that traditional look to them. They also happen to be very common, but multi-hulls are making things competitive in the market.

Catamarans do not have a keel and it helps reduce the weight of the boat. They also displace less water compared to a monohull. However, not all catamarans go fast.

Depending on the catamaran and its capabilities, there is some that glide effortlessly on the water. These ideally work best in good conditions but will be a bumpy ride if the water is a little choppy.

They offer one of the safest rides on the water and are essentially unsinkable due to their design. They spread out their weight over a larger area on the water, making them more stable than a monohull.

In addition, the living space on a monohull is huge compared to a monohull. With about a 40-foot catamaran, it has around the same living space as a 60-foot monohull.

Trimarans are another unique style of sailboat similar to a catamaran. They have three hulls side by side instead of two, making it very stable.

They also have a wide sail area and make for quick spurts out on the water. However, they also need good conditions to operate their best to move fast.

These displace water similar to a catamaran and are more stable. They also tend to go faster in the right conditions than a catamaran.

Both catamarans and trimarans generally have shallow drafts and can be beached. In coastal waters, monohulls have to watch out for their draft since they have a keel.

Fastest Monohull Sailboats

Some of the fastest monohull sailboats have unique characteristics that set it apart from other monohulls. These include sail area, weight, and wetted surface.

The beauty about monohulls is the keel, which has its advantages in tougher conditions. If you were to race a monohull against a multihull in moderate conditions, the monohull has a better chance at navigating through the water due to the keel and potentially going faster. The keel allows the boat to heel from one side to the other and come back to the center.

The Volvo Ocean 60 is one of the fastest monohull sailboats you can find. It is a perfect example of an offshore sailboat that is usually handled by four professional sailors and eight mates on deck.

This boat is roughly 64 feet long and sits about 12 feet in the water. The fastest that these boats go ranges around 35 to 40 knots, but it takes the right conditions and a little bit of patience for that large of a boat.

2. X-Yachts X4.0

The X4.0 yacht was a winner of the European Yacht of the Year award in 2020. It is a fairly new boat design, as it debuted in 2019.

This 40 foot luxury yacht is a top-of-the-line performance cruiser that is built for speed and is lightweight. Sitting about eight feet in the water, this boat can reach up to 10 knots or potentially more with the right conditions. You can quickly reach these speeds due to its size and weight.

3. Beneteau Oceanis 30.1

The Beneteau Oceanis 30.1 is another great example of a power cruising yacht that is new to the scene in 2019. At around 31 feet, it is one of the smaller yachts on the list but packs a powerful punch in performance and speed.

The max draft of this one is just shy of 6.5 feet and it received the Best Performance Cruiser in 2020. While this one, in particular, is built more for luxury and comfort, you can easily see top speeds ranging from 7.5 to 10 knots.

4. Santa Cruz 52

The Santa Cruz 52 is a perfect combination of a lightweight sloop and a blue water racer. At 53 feet long and a draft of nine feet, this boat is a beauty to see go fast.

These are often compared to the original Swan sailboats around the same length, as far as the class and style of the boat. In good conditions, they top around eight knots on a good day.

The Amel 60 is another beauty of a luxury yacht cruiser spanning almost 60 feet in length and nearly an eight-foot draft. This boat began production in 2019 and received the 2020 European Yacht of the Year Luxury Cruiser award.

With a reliance on the engine, you can push the boat a little harder in good conditions to gain more speed. While topping out the engine, you are looking at anywhere between eight and 10 knots.

Fastest Multihull Sailboats

Multihull sailboats are generally faster than monohull sailboats due to their lack of extra weight. These are up to 30 percent faster in that situation.

The only downside is that if you want to reach those maximum speeds, you cannot add a lot of extra weight to the vessel. So for sailors that want to utilize a multihull’s full potential, they need to consider what they bring on board and how many people they have.

1. Rapido 60 (Trimaran)

The Rapido 60 is one of the fastest multihulls out there for its size. At nearly 60 feet in length and almost 11 feet in draft, this unsinkable trimaran can speed up to 25 knots.

These were first built in 2015 and are a popular trimaran to look at if you are wanting the space. In the right conditions, the manufacturer says you can easily reach 30 knots if not more.

2. Dragonfly 40 (Trimaran)

The Dragonfly 40 is one of the few 40-footers out there that you can operate shorthanded. While it typically accommodates six to eight people, the boat’s design allows it to be easily handled.

According to the manufacturer, they claim it can reach 24 knots. Assuming the conditions are perfect, it could potentially reach more.

3. ICE Cat 61 (Catamaran)

The ICE Cat 61 is just a tad over 61 feet long and is one of the more beautiful catamarans you will ever see. For its size and design, it is impressive to see it reach top speeds.

With just the motors alone, you can easily reach 13.5 knots. If all the right conditions are in play, you can expect to reach up to 25 knots.

4. SIG45 (Catamaran)

The SIG 45 is a 45-foot racing cruiser that can comfortably hold about six people. With features like low dragging bows, carbon fiber material found in spars and bulkheads, and around 1,400 square feet of sailing area to play with, you can expect top performance all the way around.

It is estimated that this boat can safely top out around 20 knots. However, there is room for more knots in the best conditions.

5. Lagoon 67 S (Catamaran)

The Lagoon 67S is one of the rarest catamarans you will ever see. There were only four built from 1993 to 1995 by Jeanneau Technologies Avancées and are a gorgeous sight to see.

Regardless of the age of this boat, it still flies in the right conditions like the newer catamarans you see today. You can expect to reach a little over 20 knots for this 67 footer and about five feet of draft.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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Taking the fast boat from Brazil to Colombia

A guide to taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia. A comfortable and easy way to travel by river from Brazil to Colombia, and a good route for those wanting to cross overland from Brazil to Colombia or Peru.

Traveling internationally between South American countries ain’t cheap. Not if you fly, at least.

After finishing my NGO eye care clinic assignment with the OneSight in the Brazilian Amazon , I needed to find a way to Colombia that wouldn’t break the bank. Flying was out of the picture—USD$800 to fly from Brazil to Colombia, say what?!—so land or water it was.

My sights were set on the slow boat from Manaus to Leticia , but I only had nine days to reach Colombia before I had to meet a friend. After inquiring at the docks in Manaus, I found out the 7-day slow boat only went once per week… and I’d already missed the week’s departure by one day. So much for that dream.

Luckily, tickets for the fast boat between Manaus and Leticia were still available… and, even better, the fast boat leaves daily from Manaus.

Fast boat it was!

Compared to slow river boats , the fast boat isn’t quite as atmospheric or scenic… but there’s no denying its convenience. If you’re looking for a comfortable and easy way to get to Colombia (or Peru) from Brazil without flying, the fast boat what you need.

In the name of helping a fellow traveler or two out, here’s a quick guide to taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Man getting off the fast boat at the terminal in Manaus - Lost With Purpose travel blog

My friend Enzo checking out the fast boat situation

Timings for the fast boat from Manaus to Leticia, Brazil

Fast boats leave Manaus for Leticia on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays . The boat leaves the terminal at 6:00 in the morning.

Expect the journey to take about 36 hours, sometimes more or less depending on the water levels, current, and the ways of the world. My boat took 38 hours to reach Leticia because the boat broke down part of the way through the journey. Joy!

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Ramp to Terminal Ajato dock - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The ramp down to the Terminal Ajato dock from the main port road

How to buy tickets for the fast boat from Manaus to Leticia

If it’s a high season in Brazil (July and August) I recommend buying your ticket a day or two in advance, as the boat fills up. Otherwise, I’ve read it’s not a problem to buy your ticket on the spot or the day before.

Tickets can be purchased at Terminal Ajato in Manaus’ main port. When facing the river, the terminal will be on the far right side of the line of docks.

There’s a small ticketing booth on the dock, but when I went around 17:30 in the evening, the booth was closed.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Terminal Ajato ticketing booth - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Terminal Ajato and the small ticketing booth at sunset

Never fear—there were plenty of crew hanging out on the fast boat docked there, and I spoke to the captain directly about buying a ticket. He spoke enough English to complete a transaction.

Tickets for the fast boat are 600 reals , or about USD$160, including food and non-alcoholic drinks. If you plan on bringing luggage weighing more than 15 kg (per bag, not in total), you have to pay an extra 5 reals per kilo for every extra kilogram of weight.

I didn’t have enough reals on me to buy the ticket on the spot, and the nearest ATM was a long way off (too long, given the sun was setting and the port is not the best place to be at night). After some discussion, the captain agreed to accept US dollars instead.

After purchasing, he assigned me a seat (the last available one), wrote out a ticket slip for me, and all was said and done.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - View from the back of the fast boat - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Cool kids in the back.

What to pack for your fast boat ride

As food and drinks are provided for you on the boat, you don’t have to pack too much for the ride. Note that your big luggage will be stored out of reach (though you can access it if you ask nicely), so keep your essentials in a small bag close to you.

The most important thing: bring a blanket and/or warm clothes. There are a lot of air conditioning units on the boat, and it gets cold . When I rode the boat, all of the AC units were set to 16°C, and sitting and doing nothing means you freeze fast. My only solution was to get up and walk to the back outside seating area of the boat to toast in the heat every once in a while.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Exterior of the fast boat and views of riverside Amazonian houses - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Thank you, excessive Amazonian heat and humidity, for keeping hypothermia at bay

Everyone on the boat except me knew this ahead of time and brought blankets. I, on the other hand, froze to death throughout the night until a kindly old lady shared her blanket with me the next morning. Don’t make the same rookie mistake I did.

In addition to a blanket , I’d recommend bringing…

  • They’re available on the boat, but it’s cheaper to pack your own. You won’t have a chance to get off and buy anything at ports.
  • Things to do. 36 hours is a long time to be bored, and you can’t count on nice scenery to amuse you for the entire ride.
  • There are TVs playing movies (in Portuguese) constantly throughout the boat ride. You’ll need headphones and a smartphone with FM radio capabilities to tune in to the audio.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste. The toilets on the boat are nice, and it feels good to brush your teeth each morning and evening. Not to mention it breaks the monotony.
  • Reusable water bottle. Hot and cold filtered water is available on the boat to refill.
  • Chargers.  You can charge your devices on the boats; they have the 3 round hole plugs common to Brazil (that take European-style plugs).

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Interior of the fast boat - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The interior of the fast boat: comfy and wide seats, but alas, no reclining!

Getting on the fast boat from Brazil to Colombia

Plan on getting to Terminal Ajato around 5:00 in the morning the day of departure. Before getting on the boat, you’ll need to check in with men standing at tables near the boat, and deposit your checked luggage for weighing and storage in the below decks of the boat.

Once checked in, hang out and wait for boarding to begin around 5:45. There will be some vendors selling breakfast snacks and coffee on the dock if you’re feeling peckish.

Food and drinks on the fast boat

Your ticket includes 3 meals on the first day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and two meals the second day. A typical meal for lunch or dinner includes meat, rice, beans, noodles, and a dessert. Coke is provided during meals, and coffee is freely available all day in the back of the boat.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Food on the fast boat - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Typical boat swill. Not the greatest, but it looks better than it tastes. I swear.

If you want to drink beer, there was a man selling cans of beer on the back outside seating area of the boat.

Vegetarians and vegans beware: the meals are meaty as can be. The beans I had also had meat in them, so all you can eat is rice or noodles. Definitely pack your own food—you can get hot water to cook things if really necessary.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Leticia canal at sunset with houses and people - Lost With Purpose travel blog

My favorite spot in Leticia: along the canal

Reaching Tabatinga, Brazil and Leticia, Colombia

The boat will reach Tabatinga around 18:00-20:00 the next day.

You’ll unload at a port where you can collect your big luggage, then submit yourself and your bags for a very thorough search by the police. This is not immigration unfortunately, just a customs check. Passport stamps must be collected elsewhere.

After exiting customs, head back onto land to find yourself a taxi or ride to your next destination. Tabatinga, Brazil is not the nicest town, but neighboring Leticia, Colombia is a nice place to settle for a bit. You don’t need to go through immigration before going to Leticia—given the late hour you’ll likely arrive, I recommend just heading to Leticia and doing immigration the next day.

A taxi from Tabatinga to Leticia cost me 20 reals, and I stayed at the cheap and chill Hostel Casa de las Palmas , a hostel with pool close to the town center.

Note: Don’t forget that Colombia is one hour behind Manaus, Brazil.

Immigration between Tabatinga, Brazil and Leticia, Colombia

The next day was the real hassle: exiting Brazil and entering Colombia.

Exiting Brazil

To exit Brazil, you need to head to the Polícia Federal office in Tabatinga to get your exit stamp. On foot, it’s a 30-45 minute walk from Leticia. For a faster trip, take one of the minibuses running along Carrera 6 (Colombia)/Av. da Amizade (Brazil) for 3,000 COP .

The office was closed for lunch when I arrived; hours seem to be a bit flexible, but loosely the office is closed from 12:00-14:00 Colombian time .

Once you get in the main gray gate, exiting is quick. Show your passport with visa (or print out of e-visa) or immigration card to be stamped out.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Policia Federal office in Tabatinga - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The most welcoming wall around the police office in Tabatinga

Entering Colombia

After exiting Brazil, you have 24 hours to enter Colombia.

Flying out of Leticia within 24 hours? Get your Colombian entry stamp at the airport immigration office when you fly.

If you’re not flying out, you can still get your stamp at the airport. A moto taxi to the airport is 2,000 COP .

However, the easier (and more scenic) option is to head to the floating immigration office on the canal in Leticia. Look for a white building—it’s by far the nicest building floating on the riverside.

Taking the fast boat from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia, Colombia - Immigration office in Leticia canal - Lost With Purpose travel blog

My first ever floating immigration office!

It takes 5-10 minutes to head in, answer some basic questions, and get your Colombian entry stamp. Success—your boat journey is finally over! Have fun in Colombia 😉

Want more tales from the Amazon? Check these real stories from people in remote villages of the Brazilian Amazon .

Yay transparency!  There are affiliate links in this post. If you book something using one of my links, I’ll make a bit of extra $$$ at no extra cost to you. Never fear, I actually stayed at the places mentioned.

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Alex Reynolds

8 thoughts on “ taking the fast boat from brazil to colombia ”.

Hi Alex, it’s my first time here, and for a while I’m liking your blog. But… I disagree about what you wrote about Brazil, and Manaus. I think that if you want to travel a new country, you need immerse in a new culture. For that, maybe you need to search a little more about your destiny. In Brazil, it’s not normal vegans food, so, every vegetarian usually to bring the own food, because knows that the country hasn’t obligation to give a vegan food free. And you say it’s a cheap travel, so, what to expect? The flavor of Brazilian or Manaus food, is amazing… But, taste it’s totally personal. So it’s a wrong to say the food is bad, because each taste need to decide it. Sorry for my bad english, but, I really became upset with this description.

Hi Moane. I’m sorry I upset you. I think there’s a misunderstanding? I wasn’t saying Brazilian food/food in Manaus is bad—I thought it was quite delicious, actually—I was just warning vegetarians/vegans that they’ll need to pack their own food if traveling on this boat.

Your article is very informative! My son and I are planning a trip to Manus then taking a fast or slow boat to Tabatingina. For either one I would like a room to escape the noise. You didn’t say if your seat reclines. The food sounds better than the slow boat. Thank you for everything! Kathi

Hiya, Thanks for this info. Its really useful to get a picture of what the journey will involve. I would like to check how up to date this info is? Ive just been asking in santarem where they tell me boats take four days manaus to tabatinga and leave tue, wed, fri and sat at 12 midday. Nobody mentioned a difference between fast and slow boats..and since this is neither 7days as you said the slow boat takes, nor 36hrs, im slightly confused. Also, you say the fast boat is daily but then list four days it sails. Its a right organisational nightmare when youre not already in manaus and have to time it right to arrive when therell be a boat! Response would be v welcome. Many thanks 🙂

Hi Does anyone have recent information on crossing borders along the Amazon , COVID testing etc ? Is that something you have to do . Is a Vaccine passport enough ? Any answers would be appreciated Thank you

thanks for sharing im from brazil but i hadnt informations about that , kisses


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Chicago to Mackinac competition turns into downwind drag race

  • Updated: Jul. 13, 2024, 10:39 p.m.
  • | Published: Jul. 13, 2024, 10:27 p.m.

Chicago Yacht Club to Mackinac

The 115th Chicago Yacht Club to Mackinac Race is this weekend. The Cruising Division got underway on Friday. Photo provided by Barry Butler, CYC Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust Barry Butler, CYC Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust

The fast conditions that were forecast are coming true as the 115th Chicago Yacht Club to Mackinac sailboat competition has turned into a downwind drag race.

About 250 boats are competing. The Cruising Division left Chicago on Friday and the Racing Division left around lunchtime today. The online tracker shows the two groups flying northward up the Lake Michigan course.

“The Racing Division continues to accelerate and we’re now seeing mid-teen speeds from the faster boats which are now nearly catching the Cruising Division,” race staff said. “Look for sustained boat speeds overnight ... this is the fast race that was forecast!”

“The 250 boats underway are enjoying a ‘magic carpet ride’ thanks to the southerly, downwind sailing conditions that will carry them to up Mackinac Island, Mich., over the next 24 - 48 hours.”

These wind conditions mean many of the larger boats are averaging 10 to 15 knots as they head north. The boats are going so fast, some of them are expected to reach Mackinac Island by Sunday afternoon.

But first, the sailboat crews may have some severe weather to battle. Radar shows t he first of three storm systems approaching Michigan will cross the big lake tonight. Perhaps in preparation for this - or perhaps because of the wind direction - some of the boats appear to be heading over to the lake’s Michigan shoreline to hug that track a little closer.

The race stretches 333 miles from Chicago to Mackinac Island. This year, 2,200 sailors are on board - and about 20% are first-timers to the race known as America’s Offshore Challenge. The race is heralded as the longest freshwater sailing race in the world.

The race record is 23 hours, 30 minutes, 34 seconds and was set in 2002 by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket , a Reichel Pugh 75.

“Although early and as we know anything can – and usually does – happen on Lake Michigan, if this pace continues, we are currently on track for the 115th Race to Mackinac to be one of our fastest,” said Winn Soldani, chair of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust.

Chicago to Mackinac race

The Racing Division of the 115th Chicago Yacht Club to Mackinac race got underway Saturday. Photo provided by Barry Butler, Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust. Barry Butler, Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac presented by Wintrust.

You can check the progress as the competition tracks up the spine of Lake Michigan. Each entry is equipped with a satellite tracker that sends information on speed, location and direction every 15 minutes.  This race tracker gives you a color-coded map .

The race starts near Chicago’s Navy Pier, heads up Lake Michigan, rounds the top of The Mitten and sails under the Mackinac Bridge before approaching the finish line near the Round Island Lighthouse alongside Mackinac Island.

And once the boat crews step onto Mackinac Island, it’s party time.

Many of the boats will post individual updates, photos and videos during the race. You can follow the race on social media:  #CYCRTM

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Copa américa 2024 winners and losers.

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Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates with the trophy after the team's victory during the CONMEBOL ... [+] Copa America 2024 Final match between Argentina and Colombia

Now the dust has settled on an entertaining Copa América 2024 teams and organisations will be looking back on this summer in the U.S.A, analysing where they are ahead of the World Cup in two years time. It’s fair to say that some are in a far better position than others and whilst winners are celebrating others will have Copa hangover until the next set of international matches in September.

Argentina are the big winners on the continent once more. Despite a relaxed run to the final the World Cup champions beat the nations in front of them and went on to lift a historic third consecutive major title.

In the knockout stages Argentina couldn’t beat Colombia or Ecuador over 90 minutes, which shows they struggled to find their rhythm in this tournament. Yet at the same time, those extra time and penalty shoot-out wins show that this team hasn’t lost their sense of identity or the ability to get the games over the line. That’s what makes a winning team. The very nous that they were missing for so many years of hurt prior to their 2021 Copa success.

Argentina will take on Spain next year in another ‘Finalissima,’ as World champions and back-to-back winners of the Copa América.

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Venezuela had surprised plenty of teams in FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifying last year and now they have delighted their fans again at the 2024 Copa América.

The ‘vino tinto’ defeated Ecuador in a crucial opening fixture and went on to win all three group matches, which absolutely nobody would have predicted. They will rue a missed opportunity to play in the semifinals after defeat to Canada in the quarters though. Regardless of that loss, they have become a competitive side once again and look on course to compete at the next World Cup, which would be the biggest achievement in the history of the national team.

Venezuela's players gather during a penalty shoot-out in the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament ... [+] quarter-final football match between Venezuela and Canada. They were seconds away from the final four after winning all three group matches.

Canada lost to eventual winners Argentina in the final four, after their last eight shoot-out victory over Venezuela. They were the only one of the three 2026 FIFA World Cup hosts to make it past the group stage at this Copa.

CONCACAF champions Mexico and rivals U.S.A were talked about a lot more coming into this tournament but both of them failed badly and now the U.S. are searching for a new coach ahead of their own World Cup in two years time.

Perhaps Jesse Marsch, who of course is now coaching Canada, might have the type of profile they are looking for ahead of the tournament in two seasons time. Marsch however is now flying the flag for northern neighbours Canada, who looked like a tricky side to play against despite two defeats against Argentina and a penalty shoot-out defeat to Uruguay.

Colombia may have lost the final but in the grand scheme of things they have had an incredibly successful campaign. They hadn’t lost for 28 games before the final and managed to get the better of both Brazil and Uruguay on their way to Miami. Despite such a rich run of form not many predicted they would get to the final.

Argentina were always big favourites for this title but Colombia showed they can be top challengers and have no fear. The best of the rest might have earnt a bit more luck on the night too. They were not played off the park by any means, but edged out by the winning experience of Argentina after 120 minutes of play. Colombia’s fantastic young squad will go again.

MIAMI GARDENS, UNITED STATES - JULY 15: James Rodriguez of Colombia was named player of the ... [+] tournament at this Copa América and will look to lead his side to another run at the 2026 World Cup

Brazil can only be seen as losers regarding this tournament. They have an abundance of talent in their ranks and yet they only managed to win one game out of four. That was against a Paraguay side who lost every game they played in.

When they faced tests against Colombia and Uruguay they couldn’t pass them. Their last Copa América success in 2019 feels like it is a million miles away and a lack of World Cup glory since 2002 leaves this football-crazy nation more and more frustrated with every passing year.

Vinicius Junior of Brazil reacts to a call from supporters during the CONMEBOL Copa America 2024 ... [+] match between Brazil and Colombia at Levi's Stadium on July 2, 2024 in Santa Clara, California.

The U.S.A are the main hosts of the 2026 World Cup and they want to be competitive at their home tournament. Their defeat to Panama this time out spelled disaster and it shows that they are off their targets.

The U.S. seem to take one step forward and then two steps back in their football development. Famous results are followed by embarrassing ones and optimism is derailed by the disappointment that follows. They are now looking for a new boss to try and take their talented young squad to the next level and avoid embarrassment as the hosts of the next biggest tournament in global sports.

Mexico are in a similar boat to their neighbours to the north. They have underperformed and left their fans distraught in the process. This time out they couldn’t defeat Venezuela or Ecuador and were sent home without passing through the group stage.

This Mexican side is lacking in quality and only managed one goal in their three Copa América group matches. They will open up the next FIFA World Cup in Mexico City when the Estadio Azteca hosts the very first game. Like with the U.S. big changes need to happen between now and then if they are to avoid being shown up at their own football fiesta.

Santiago Gimenez of Mexico reacts during the CONMEBOL Copa America group B match between Mexico and ... [+] Ecuador at State Farm Stadium on June 30

Joseph O'Sullivan

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Electric boats

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Flux Marine unveils 100% electric center console boat with a hull from Scout and DC fast charging

Avatar for Scooter Doll

Outboard motor and battery specialist Flux Marine has introduced a new center console boat package to its lineup to help further electrify the industry. The package combines Flux’s 100% electric propulsion system with a hull from Scout boats to deliver a vessel that can travel 30 mph and replenish on a DC fast charger.

Flux Marine is a company based in Bristol, Rhode Island that specializes in all-electric outboard motors and marine-grade batteries to power them. Additionally, Flux offers customers boat packages that implement its propulsion technology onto existing vessels.

To date, the company has unveiled an all-electric dual console boat option that includes a Scout Dorado 215 hull and a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) package with the help of Highfield. Today, Flux Marine has announced a third entry in its new electric boat lineup, which once again includes a hull from Scout Boats.

Check out the Electric Scout 215 XSF.

Scout electric boat

Flux to sell Scout 215 XSF electric boat later this year

Flux shared details of its new electric boat package today, which consists of a 21′ 6″ center console hull from Scout that is powered by its own electric outboard motor and a 84 kWh marine-grade lithium-ion battery pack.

The result is a 100% electric day boat with room for nine passengers designed for cruising and coastal fishing at sea. The Scout 215 XSF offers a top power output of 150 hp (112 kW) and 100 hp (72 kW) of continuous power. It can cruise at 25 mph, reach a top speed of 30 mph, and offer a top range of up to 30 miles (26 knots) at cruising speeds. Per Flux Marine CEO Ben Sorkin:

The idea behind Flux Marine is to provide a better, more efficient method of boat propulsion. Our 100 hp outboard hits the sweet spot, capable of propelling a 22 ft boat like the Scout XSF for almost any activity on the water. Our goal is to evoke excitement and innovation while ensuring users feel comfortable with what’s powering their boat.

A huge bonus in the all-electric Scout XSF center console boat is its ability to charge via AC or DC plugs when docked. Flux says the vessel can recharge from 20-80% in 7.5 hours on an AC plug (110-, 220-, or 240-volt) or as quickly as 1.5 hours using a DC fast charger.

In addition to the powertrain and battery pack, Flux has integrated the Scout boat with its own designed throttle, UI, and mobile companion app. Flux’s software will help future boat owners monitor and manage their speed and range from the helm, complete with live updates on an integrated Garmin chartplotter.

The all-electric Scout XSF center console boat starts at $120,000 and joins the Scout Dorado 215 and Highfield RIBs in the lineup. All are set to go on sale directly to consumers later this year.

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Scooter Doll is a writer, designer and tech enthusiast born in Chicago and based on the West Coast. When he’s not offering the latest tech how tos or insights, he’s probably watching Chicago sports. Please send any tips or suggestions, or dog photos to him at [email protected]

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Fast yachts for sale: speed demons and dashing dayboats

Powerful, showy and thrilling, these boats are all about getting places – at speed. Perfect for short day cruises, weekends away or just opening the throttles at sea for the sheer joy of it. The era of austerity and rocketing fuel prices may have dampened the ardour of some for these speed demons, but with their sleek, sporty looks and unabashed power they still hold immense appeal. Moreover, these kind of yachts are often ground-breakers, whether it be hull design, build technology, new materials or fuel efficiency, so the fuel bill may not be as high as you fear.

And while top speeds can be impressive, they are more likely to be reserved for special occasions. More important for normal operation is performance at cruising power and range, so they really come into their own as dayboats and weekenders. Take your pick from this powerful pack, and start planning your Friday getaway…

Mistral 55 | 52 knots/47 knots

When a yacht takes the name of a strong wind, you can guess that her performance is going to be promising and this Pershing 115 does not disappoint, delivering a blistering 52 knots thanks to 12,500hp from twin Codag MTU engines and triple waterjets. She cruises at a no less impressive 47 knots, and comes with oodles of Italian style courtesy of Fulvio de Simoni , who was responsible for her naval architecture, styling and interior.

Mirage | 50 knots/45 knots

One of the fastest luxury yachts in the world, the 30 metre Mirage tops out at 50 knots thanks to her three 2,430 hp MTU engines coupled with Arneson drives. She is fleet of looks too with an immense glass windshield that flows back to the open deck space, a sleek black hull and low-riding superstructure, with a flybridge that melds into the yacht’s lines. Launched in 2010, she is the second Baia 100 to be built and accommodates up to 10 guests in suitably slick style.

Shooting Star | 48 knots-plus/40 knots

This 38 metre carbon flyer packs a punch with her 48 knot speed, but that’s only from the standard configuration of twin 16 cylinder MTU engines. With space for 20 cylinder engines, her innovative hull has been tank-tested all the way up to 65 knots. Combined with an ultra-light, pared-back Scandinavian style, acres of glass and tip-top technology, Shooting Star is one fast lady.

Daloli | 54 knots-plus/37 knots

Built by Heesen for the Sultan of Brunei in 1995, Daloli (ex- AA Absolute ) has some superlatives to her name. Her 16 cylinder MTU engines are boosted by triple waterjets and can push her to a no-holds-barred 54 knots, while at a cracking cruising speed of 37 knots she has a range of 1,000 nautical miles. Performance is matched by an ultra-modern interior, of course.

AB 116 | 50 knots/44 knots

Speed is obviously a priority when a yacht such built using the light, strong materials and technology developed for the aerospace industry, but it is not the sole raison d’etre of the AB 116 , for these innovations also eliminate vibrations, making the ride smooth even at 50 knots. Power comes from triple 2,400hp MTUs linked to water-jet drives.

Moon Goddess | 53 knots/44 knots

Styled by Espen Øino and built by Danish Yachts in 2006 for the owner of Princess Mariana , Moon Goddess  - now listed for sale with Burgess - was in many respects the predecessor of Shooting Star. The carbon fibre open sports yacht is light and manoeuvrable, with 16 cylinder MTU diesels driving twin water jets for speeds of up to 53 knots.

Ermis² | 55 knots/45 knots

The need for speed prescribed this unique New Zealand-built 37 metre superyacht’s power systems, design and construction – a whole new class of ultra-light technology. She was built specifically for getting to weekend destinations fast, and that means faster than a Force 10 wind at her 55 knot top speed. She also copes with any seas and with her extended ocean range of 2,300 nautical miles at 30 knots, the world could be your oyster almost every weekend. Ermis2 is now listed for sale with Ocean Independence.

One More Toy | 42 knots/35 knots

One of a kind, One More Toy is the only Pershing Pininfarina Limited Edition in the world, and with those Italian car designer credentials her styling is appropriately reminiscent of fast cars, right down to the Ferrari red leather interiors and Ferrari Grigio Silverstone paint job. With throttles open she tops 42 knots and cruises at a cracking 35.

And if you are looking for speed without fuel consumption, here’s a super sailer that would leave the average superyacht in its wake.

Swift | 30 knots under sail

The world’s fastest sailing catamaran – formerly known as Orange and more recently Gitana 13 – has been converted into a fast cruiser that is still capable of 30 knots under sail. She has set quite a precedent for gobbling up nautical miles – taking 43 days to sail New York to San Francisco, 11 days from San Francisco to Yokohama and 41 days from Hong Kong to London. Maybe a bit more than a weekender, but still an exhilarating ride without regard for the price of fuel.

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  • The Amazon’s Resources
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  • Coca and Cocaine Production
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Illegal Logging, Gold Dredging and Fishing
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Members of the "Warriors of Forest", a vigilante group from the Kanamari ethnic group, patrol along the Javari river in the Javari Valley, in the northwest Amazonas state of Brazil, on May 18, 2023.

A Three Border Problem: Holding Back the Amazon’s Criminal Frontiers

Organised crime is flourishing in the jungle expanse trisected by the borders of Brazil, Colombia and Peru, putting the populations and ecosystems of the Amazon’s heartland at serious risk. With donor aid, the three states should act fast before the illegal activity does irreversible damage.

What’s new?  Across the region where Brazil, Colombia and Peru meet deep in the Amazon, an assortment of criminal organisations are exploiting the feeble reach of states, abundance of natural resources and poverty of local communities to grow, diversify and hatch new cross-border ventures. 

Why does it matter?  Surging cocaine production in Peru and the spread of other rackets like gold dredging and illicit logging threaten Indigenous ways of life, spur deadly violence and harm the environment. Should these criminal ventures go unchecked, they could undermine the already tenuous state control of the world’s largest rainforest. 

What should be done?  Following up on promises made in 2023, the three countries should bolster security cooperation and harness foreign assistance with a view to prosecuting and sanctioning those responsible for environmental crimes. Support for law-abiding livelihoods and stronger collaboration with Indigenous communities at the front lines of criminal expansion are vital.

I. Overview

Deep in the Amazon jungle, the tri-border area where Brazil, Colombia and Peru meet has become a hotbed of crime, sending a continuous warning of the threats facing the world’s largest rainforest. Emboldened by the patchy hold of state authorities on this vast area, Brazilian criminal groups have struck partnerships with Colombian guerrilla factions and Peruvian drug trafficking outfits. They exploit an array of illegal enterprises, from growing coca and processing it into cocaine to logging, dredging for gold and fishing in protected areas. As criminal revenues boom, the environmental harm to the Amazon and the violence meted out to local people have soared, but so have the material incentives for hard-up locals to enlist in one or another of these groups. To protect the forest, security forces in the three states should put aside their mutual wariness, capitalising on foreign support to build a more effective response to transnational crime. At the same time, safeguarding the Amazon will depend on ensuring that local communities, including Indigenous groups, can pursue legal livelihoods and build stronger trust with security forces and state bodies.

The growing clout of criminal groups on the triple frontier has spurred a high number of killings, many of them linked to feuds over turf or punishment of local people who dare to resist these outfits’ encroachment on their land. Across this part of the Amazon, the new illegal overlord is the Brazilian group Comando Vermelho, which has gained the upper hand in battles with two other major criminal outfits: the local band Os Crías and the Primeiro Comando da Capital, an immensely powerful group originally from São Paulo but now active throughout Brazil. Law enforcement officials believe Comando Vermelho may be in cahoots with the Colombian guerrilla group Carolina Ramírez, which broke away from the now-demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). 

Peru, for its part, has become the engine of cocaine production in the area, causing serious environmental damage. Coca crops, which are grown on razed forest land, have boomed in the Peruvian border province of Mariscal Ramón Castilla, often funded by Colombian or Brazilian investors and drawing on the labour of local villagers to cultivate the plant. The leaf is processed in laboratories that leak contaminants into the soil and water, and then the finished product is transported largely unchecked along the Amazon and its tributaries. Most of it is eventually sold in Brazil – the largest domestic market for the drug in South America – or exported to Europe and Africa. Some of it travels via Ecuador, the country now suffering the worst rates of criminal violence in South America.

What little resistance state authorities put up to this flow is promptly eliminated by bribes or violence. Illegal outfits frequently reinvest profits from drug trafficking in other environmentally harmful rackets such as illegal logging, dredging and fishing, enabling them to launder their income while generating still more. Indigenous communities have sought to defend their territories from the incursions of criminal groups, but many claim to have received no support from the state or security forces. At particular risk from booming crime are the so-called uncontacted Indigenous tribes. These communities live deep in the jungle, having evaded interaction with Western civilization for centuries. The unbroken perimeter of their territory, which is protected by law, is on the verge of being breached by encroaching loggers, land grabbers and other racketeers, threatening not only their culture but also their very existence. 

The essential role played by the Amazon in regulating the world’s climate is universally acknowledged. It is sure to take centre stage at major international gatherings on the environment taking place soon in Colombia and Brazil, the Biodiversity COP16 in October 2024 and the Climate COP30 in 2025, as well as at the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro in November. 

But without greater commitment to protecting the Amazon and its peoples by the three border countries, organised crime will continue to trigger violence, harm the rainforest and disrupt society. The region’s immense natural assets can be preserved only if protections are properly enforced and the rules of forest use honoured, instead of subverted by the spread of criminal activity. Strengthening cooperation among the law enforcement agencies of the three border countries as well as their foreign partners is crucial. It is the only viable way to identify, prosecute and – where necessary – sanction the criminal groups and financial backers responsible for the greatest harm to local people and the environment. Aside from greater transnational coordination, security forces will also need to draw on the support and local knowledge of Indigenous communities while increasing the number of law-abiding livelihoods available to them. With the backing of foreign donors, Colombia, Brazil and Peru should act fast before crime causes irreversible damage to the Amazon’s heartland.

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II. Criminal Groups in the Borderlands

The Amazon’s remoteness is both its most precious characteristic and its greatest liability. The region where Brazil, Colombia and Peru meet is particularly far away from populous areas. With its last frontiers demarcated only in the 1920s, the tri- border region stands thousands of kilometres from the countries’ respective capitals, which is a major reason why wildlife has flourished and natural resources remain  abundant within its confines. [1] At the same time, the opportunities the area provides for illicit profit-making are attracting increasing attention from powerful criminal outfits, above all in Brazil.

[1] The 1922 Salomón-Lozano treaty between Colombia and Peru aimed to resolve longstanding border disputes in areas dominated by rubber barons. In this treaty, Peru ceded sovereignty of Leticia to Colombia, granting the latter access to the Amazon River, and retained control of the lands up to the right bank of the Putumayo River. In 1932, however, Peruvian dissatisfaction with the treaty spurred an effort to seize control of Leticia, sparking an eight-month Colombian-Peruvian war. The League of Nations played a crucial role in mediating the conflict and facilitated the transfer of Leticia back to Colombia in 1933.  See Yohana Pantevis and Germán Palacio, Ciudades amazónicas intermedias, pesca y frontera (2016). Andrea Díaz Cardona, “ ‘El conflicto de Leticia’: cómo fue la guerra entre Perú y Colombia por un pequeño territorio (y quién ganó) ”, BBC, 26 May 2023.

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A. The Amazon’s Resources

The tri-border region is home to isolated communities that have monitored, nurtured and protected the forest. Indigenous peoples – including the Ticuna, Bora, Marubo and Matis – reside in villages and rural settlements along the Amazon and its tribu taries. State services in these towns are essentially non-existent. Locals depend on  gasoline-powered generators for intermittent electricity, and there are no hospitals within a day’s travel for many remote communities. Deep in the forest, several Indige nous groups such as the Mayoruna and Tsohom Dyapa live in voluntary seclusion. [1] An influx of new residents, tourists and members of criminal groups pose grave  threats to these native populations, bringing new diseases as well as the threat of  violence. [2] The region’s main urban centres, meanwhile, are the twin towns of Tabat inga and Leticia on the Brazilian-Colombian border, which have in effect merged into a single conurbation home to some 113,000 inhabitants.

Lack of passable roads means the tri-border region is accessible only by boat or plane. The paucity of legitimate businesses and absence of a robust state presence,  both of which stem from the area’s remoteness, make jobs scarce, while illicit activity thrives. [3] Poverty and homicide rates in the area are far in excess of national averages, but  because the region is comprised of rural hinterlands and small cities, national authorities tend to overlook outbreaks of violence there. [4] Officials in the region’s law enforcement agencies – which are principally tasked with border security – complain that they lack the resources and equipment they need to do their jobs. 

The Amazon’s role in climate regulation makes insecurity in the tri-border region a global concern. As the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon serves as a  pre-eminent carbon sink, absorbing substantial amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Through its central place in the hydrological cycle, the Amazon also exerts a profound influence on global weather and precipitation patterns. Its unparalleled biodiversity is essential for maintaining ecological balance. [5] But as organised crime spreads across the Amazon it exacts a heavy price, fuelling violence, breaking up  communities and furthering deforestation and other kinds of environmental degradation. In combination, the harm wrought by criminal activity to nature and human lives also makes it harder for states in the region to preserve the ecosystem and its  capacity to mitigate the impact of climate change. 

[1] Experts say there are around nineteen voluntarily isolated Indigenous groups.  “ Vale do Javari: la presencia del Estado aseguró la paz por muchos años ”, Agencia Brasil, 27 February 2023.

[2] A recent arrival is a Christian cult known as the Israelites, which has established several settlements in the Amazon forest. See Ivan Brehaut, “ Los Israelitas del Nuevo Pacto Universal en el Perú: religión, deforestación y narcotráfico ”, La Mula , 14 August 2023; and Dom Phillips, “ The isolated tribes at risk of illness from Amazon missionaries ”, The Guardian , 23 March 2020.

[3] The Amazonas department in Colombia, despite being connected to important rivers used for transport, represents only 0.1 per cent of national GDP.  “ La información del DANE para la toma de decisiones regionales ”, National Administrative Department of Statistics, May 2022.  In Brazil, Amazonas state represents just 2 per cent of national GDP despite the free trade zone in Manaus and many extractive industries. “ Economia do Amazonas ”, Brasil Escola. 

[4] Bram Ebus and Ulrich Eberle, “ Crimes against the Climate: Violence and Deforestation in the Amazon ”, Crisis Group Commentary, 8 December 2023.  Data gathered by Crisis Group from national police databases in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. 

[5] “ Amazon Assessment Report 2021 ”, Science Panel for the Amazon, 2021. 

B. Criminal Competition

Rising violence and environmental degradation are the result of the expansion of criminal groups into the remote Amazon jungles, particularly by Brazilian organisa tions that until a decade ago operated mostly in urban centres. By far the dominant  illicit organisation is Comando Vermelho, which sprung up in the Rio de Janeiro pris on Rogério Lemgruber nearly 50 years ago. Together with the powerful nationwide syndicate Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), this group has extended its reach to towns in the heart of the Amazon and now reportedly operates in Colombia and Peru. The group has also established a power base in the jails of Leticia and Tabatinga, allegedly with the support of corrupt officials. [1]  

In their incursions into the Amazon, Comando Vermelho and the PCC followed the lead of Familia do Norte, a group originally from Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, and which was the main criminal organisation there for almost a decade. In the late 2000s, Familia do Norte forged ties with Colombian guerrillas and drug traffickers in Peru to become the primary purchaser of Peruvian coca along the Amazon River. [2]

[1]   Crisis Group interviews,  inmates, Tabatinga, November 2023. In 2023, over two dozen prisoners, including Brazilian nationals, were sent from Leticia to Bogotá to prevent them from staging an uprising. Crisis Group interview, state officials, Bogotá, 5 June 2024.

[2]   Crisis Group interviews,  inmates and law enforcement officials, Tabatinga, November 2023.

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Almost five years ago, Comando Vermelho mounted a successful challenge to Familia do Norte’s dominance, despite a previous alliance, when it launched a new venture known as Comando Vermelho Amazonas. (A thirteen-member so-called Per manent Council in Manaus oversees this enterprise. That entity, in turn, answers to the gang’s leadership in Rio de Janeiro. [1] ) In mid-2023, it bested not just Familia do Norte but also another of its main competitors in the tri-border region, Os Crías. That gang was an offshoot of Familia do Norte: former Familia members – along with new local recruits – established it in 2019. Os Crías received initial financing and weaponry from the PCC, on the understanding that together the groups would coun terbalance the influence of Comando Vermelho and gain control of trafficking routes. 

This plan came to naught due to lack of discipline in Os Crías’ ranks. “They are  young people, aged fifteen to sixteen, up to twenty years old, [and the organisation] did not have a very strong, well-designed structure”, explained a Brazilian police investigator . At one point, he said, the syndicate did have a prominent leader  “who would tell them what to do and how to do it”. [2] That person was a man known as  Brendo dos Santos; when he was killed in August 2023, Os Crías began to crater. [3] Facing an ultimatum from Comando Vermelho, Os Crías members were forced to  either join that group’s ranks or risk elimination. [4] As a result, the local criminal ecosystem has drastically changed in the last two years. “Os Crías is finished”, affirmed a Comando Vermelho member interviewed in Tabatinga’s prison. “It doesn’t exist  anymore”. [5]

[1] Crisis Group interviews, law  enforcement officials, Manaus, 2023; inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023.

[2] Crisis Group telephone interview, Brazilian law enforcement official, 12 September 2023.

[3] Crisis Group interview, NGO representative, Tabatinga, 15 November 2023.

[4] Crisis Group interviews, inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023; law enforcement officials, Leticia, 10 October 2023.

[5]   Crisis Group interviews, inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023.

Comando Vermelho’s aim now, according to a member, is to assert supremacy in the tri-border region in the hope of expanding into Colombia and Peru. The group wants to control the cocaine supply chain all the way from the coca fields in Peru  to the trafficking routes in Colombia and Brazil’s Amazon regions. [1] To do so, they offer sweeteners to locals, exploiting the absence of legitimate work opportunities. Criminals give recruits – often men and boys as young as fifteen – payments that include sums ranging from $2,000 to $2,400 for tasks such as transporting cocaine to Manaus, drawing them into lives of crime and often encouraging them to enlist  others. [2]   Comando Vermelho also claims to provide financial aid, medication and food to needy families in the areas they control. Their primary objective, as described by a member, is to “conquer everything” – to achieve dominance over local markets and populations. [3]

In Colombia, Comando Vermelho has found willing partners in its drive to expand . While Colombia’s 60-year internal conflict largely did not touch the Amazonas de partment, the Carolina Ramírez front – a dissident faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – is making inroads in the region. [4] Operating mostly along the Caquetá River, which flows through the Amazonas department into Brazil, the Carolina Ramírez front appears set on acquiring more turf in the tri-border area. At first, it extorted equipment and fuel from park rangers. “Just as if they were [picking up] groceries”, a state official rued, recalling how guerrillas took the outboard motor for his boat, fuel and his GPS unit. [5]   I n 2020, tensions escalated when guerrillas summoned National Parks Institute officials to a meeting, at which it announced that state employees were henceforth prohibited from working in designated nature reserves, such as the Río Puré National Park. [6]

The relationship between the front and Comando Vermelho has strengthened notably over the past year. Carolina Ramírez had been selling cocaine and marijuana produced in Colombia to the Brazilian criminal group, but in September 2023, a senior Carolina Ramírez representative – who goes by the alias El Tigre – created a new sub-unit called Frente Amazonas, which engages in drug trafficking and extortion of illegal gold miners. [7] According to law enforcement investigators, many of its members are Brazilian nationals, and they have a presence in the municipality of Japurá, Brazil. Intelligence officials warn that relations between Colombian guerrilla outfits and Comando Vermelho could deepen, potentially converting their combined forces into the first major binational criminal enterprise in the Amazon. [8]

That would not be the only setback for state authorities. Until now, Carolina Ramí rez has been participating in rounds of dialogue with the Colombian government  under President Gustavo Petro’s “total peace” strategy. [9] A formal alliance with the Brazilian criminal outfit could deal a severe blow to Petro’s peace ambitions and pose serious regional security dilemmas. [10]

[2] Crisis Group interview, church leader, Benjamin Constant, 20 January 2024.

[3] Crisis Group interviews, inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023.

[4] Carolina Ramírez was a front of the Estado Mayor Central (EMC), a dissident FARC faction led by alias Iván Mordisco that did not sign the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian government and the guerrillas, but which has begun talks with Bogotá. In April, splits within the EMC appeared to indicate that Carolina Ramírez front has split from Mordisco and is acting as an independent force.  After fieldwork for this briefing was complete, Carolina Ramírez rebranded itself as the Rául Reyes Front, but this briefing will refer to it by its original name.  For more information, see José David Rodríguez, “ Disidencias instrumentalizan menores de edad y los entrenan para fabricar explosivos ”, W Radio, 27 May 2024.

[5] Crisis Group interview, state official, Colombia, 2023.

[6]   Ibid.

[7] Crisis Group interviews, law enforcement officials, Leticia, 10 October 2023.

[8] Crisis Group interviews, law enforcement officials, Amazonas (Brazil), 2023.

[9] For background, see Elizabeth Dickinson, “ Colombia’s Last Guerrillas Make First Step toward ‘Total Peace’ ”, Crisis Group Commentary, 23 November 2022; and Crisis Group Latin America Report N°98, Protecting Colombia’s Most Vulnerable on the Road to “Total Peace” , 24 February 2023.

[10]   Crisis Group interviews, state officials, April and May 2024. Peruvian organised crime groups have remained mostly local. Plantation owners from Lima, Peru’s interior regions and Colombia, known as patrones , oversee coca plantations in the Mariscal Ramón Castilla province with private security. Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous community leaders, Mariscal Ramón Castilla, 13 November 2023.

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III. Illicit Business

Criminal groups are attracted to the tri-border region largely because of the oppor tunities it provides to control the flow of illicit drugs. The patchy state presence in the borderlands and most of the Amazon allows these groups largely unfettered access to rivers that flow, unguarded, to major Brazilian port cities or, to a lesser extent, to Ecuador. From these harbours, criminal groups distribute cocaine for consumption in Brazil or ship it around the world. Much of the fighting among criminal groups – and the concomitant danger to civilians it brings – can be traced to efforts to dominate these trafficking routes. At the same time, these organisations are exploiting natural resources in the Amazon rainforest to diversify their sources of income and launder their ill-gotten profits. To date, law enforcement in the three countries has been unable to rein in this influx of illegal outfits.

A. Coca and Cocaine Production

Cocaine is the main cause of deforestation in the tri-border region, in large part because drug trafficking groups are increasingly growing the crop – and processing it – within the forest itself. The core of coca production in the Amazon lies in the Peruvian departments of Uyacali and Loreto. Bordering Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, Loreto saw its hectares of coca crops almost triple between 2018 and 2022. [1] According to a Peruvian official, Comando Vermelho pays plantation and lab owners to get their operations running, as do Colombian investors; thus far, about 200 processing laboratories have sprung up. [2] An estimated 70 per cent of the cocaine and cocaine base paste produced in Peru is then trafficked into Brazil, while about 30 per cent is taken to Ecuador, mainly via the Napo River. Security officers admit that Peru’s counter-narcotics agency, the Anti-Drug Directorate, has no active presence along some of the main trafficking routes. [3]

[1] Loreto went from having 5,072 hectares of coca crops in 2018 to 13,844 in 2022. The province of Mariscal Ramón Castilla in Loreto is the hub of cocaine production: coca cultivation in the province rose from 2,939 hectares in 2018 to 8,613 in 2022. In addition, the majority of drug labs are situated there.  “ Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca 2022 ”, DEVIDA, 2023. When Crisis Group spoke with counter-narcotics authorities in November 2023, they said they had managed to destroy only five labs in 2022, adding that they hoped to take down many more in the future. While law enforcement officials have decried what they describe as a lack of resources to cover the vast region, during a field visit, Crisis Group visited coca plantations just a few kilometres from a military base. Hence it may not be just a lack of resources that inhibits a forceful state response to criminal groups. Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Mariscal Ramón Castilla, November 2023 and January 2024.

[2] Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Cuchillacocha, 14 November 2023. Unlike in other ethnic Amazon territories, in  Mariscal Ramón Castilla, Indigenous populations such as the Ticuna have no ancestral use for the coca leaf, so all the plantations  are for cocaine production.

[3]   Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Cuchillacocha, 14 November 2023.

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The Peruvian state has been unable to curb the growth of drug trafficking or the violence that often accompanies it. Peru has ample experience with crop substitution projects, under which the government entices coca growers to switch to crops such as cacao. But crop substitution efforts in Loreto have flopped, largely because small-hold farmers lack the financing, technical tools and access to markets to make the change. [1] To get a handle on the growing violence, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in the province of Mariscal Ramón Castilla in December 2023. Despite the extended powers this designation gave security officers, they say they are outgunned by the drug traffickers. [2] Organised crime groups protect their coca labs by deploying one or two dozen armed men carrying U.S.-made weapons, including M16s and grenade launchers that fire 40mm ammunition. [3] “We are a bit afraid”, said a local state official. “They can kill us”. [4]  

Little, if any, of the proceeds from cocaine trafficking trickle down to rural and Indigenous communities in Mariscal Ramón Castilla. The region is mired in extreme poverty, lacking passable roads, electricity and potable water. While Colombian and Brazilian drug traffickers often pay Indigenous leaders for access to their communities’ territories to grow coca, these criminal groups frequently renege on the terms of the agreements and in essence usurp the land. [5] Community leaders feel powerless to confront the drug traffickers. During a focus group Crisis Group conducted in the Amazonas department in Colombia, one Indigenous leader described the fraught dynamic: “Everyone has weapons; [the traffickers] no longer pay attention [to us] and threaten the authorities”. [6]  

Criminal groups seek   cheap manual labour for the plantations from local communities, including those on the Colombian side of the river. Indigenous people – mostly young men – are offered fat paychecks to work on coca plantations, but they are often paid instead in cocaine base paste, a dried substance that has not been purified into cocaine and can be smoked for an intense high. The ready supply of this drug has led to an increase in consumption, including among children. [7] In some cases, when coca leaf pickers have demanded cash payment from plantation owners, they have been killed. In Colombia, drug traffickers have threatened community members who discourage their children from working in drug production in Peru. [8]

[1] Cacao, for example, typically takes several years to become productive, forcing some farmers to return to coca to earn a livelihood. Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous community leaders, Mariscal Ramón Castilla, 13 November 2023.

[2]   “ Decreto Supremo que prorroga el Estado de Emergencia en las provincias de Putumayo y Mariscal Ramón Castilla del departamento de Loreto ”, El Peruano , 12 December  2023 .  Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Cuchillacocha, 14 November 2023.

[3]   While hitting a remote drug lab takes about twenty armed officers, a law enforcement official estimated that raiding Bellavista, in  Mariscal Ramón Castilla, a village practically run by drug traffickers, would require a force of at least 200.  Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Cuchillacocha, 14 November 2023.

[4] Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Mariscal Ramón Castilla, January 2024.

[5] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous community leaders, Mariscal Ramón Castilla, November 2023.

[6] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023.

[7] Ibid. Crisis Group telephone interview, humanitarian official, 7 June 2024.

[8]   Pamela Huerta, “ The poorest narcos in the drug trafficking chain ”, Amazon Underworld , 10 August 2023.

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B. Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking has been a major source of revenue in the region since the 1980s, when Leticia became a hub for transporting illicit substances. The main person responsible was Evaristo Porras, a trafficker connected to cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, who established the so-called Cartel del Amazonas, which – as its name suggests – became the Amazon’s preeminent drug cartel. [1] Although Porras died in 2010, the region has since become even more deeply enmeshed in the international drug trade. [2] Increased coca cultivation in Peru means there is more product to bring to market. Crime syndicates are vying to control trafficking routes, particularly those leading to Manaus, which lies on the Amazon along the way to coastal ports. They also aim to dominate local drug markets, extending their influence into Brazilian towns near the tri-border area like Benjamin Constant and Atalaia do Norte, both of which sit on tributaries that are crucial trafficking corridors. [3]

The rivers and tributaries in the Amazon basin connecting Colombia and Peru to Brazil’s interior and Atlantic seaports have become aquatic highways for drug trafficking. Law enforcement teams encounter major challenges in controlling the shallow rivers, in part because their heavy metal vessels are ill suited to navigating the waterways. During the rainy season, rivers swell by up to 15m, creating additional trafficking routes and concealment opportunities. [4] The Amazon itself has seen a huge increase in drug transit since 2016. [5] Simultaneously, cases of river piracy have multiplied. Also known as “river rats”, the pirates mostly rob the locals, but on occasion they attack drug traffickers with .30 and .50 calibre guns. [6] Local sources allege that police officers are directly involved in piracy. “The police take and sell”, said an Indigenous leader who makes this accusation. [7]  Authorities deny it, claiming that criminals wear official-looking uniforms to confuse people. [8]  

[1]   At that time, coca leaves  produced in Peru and Bolivia were processed in laboratories in the Colombian departments of Caquetá, Guaviare and Putumayo. Hernando Salazar, “ Muere arruinado famoso capo colombiano ”, BBC Mundo, 9 March 2010.  Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous community leaders and law enforcement officials, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, 2023 and 2024.

[2] Porras died of heart failure, four years after completing a prison sentence for illegal enrichment and drug trafficking.  “ En la quiebra murió el ex-narco Evaristo Porras ”, El Tiempo , 9 March 2010. 

[4]   Crisis  Group telephone interview, academic, 14 April 2024.

[5] Drug trafficking has increased along the Amazon to such an extent that in 2019 a makeshift submarine filled with three tonnes of cocaine left Leticia; almost a month later, Spanish law enforcement intercepted it off the coast of Galicia. Sam Jones, “ Cocaine seized from ‘narco-submarine’ in Spain was likely headed for UK ”, The Guardian,  27 November 2019. See also “ Tussle for the Amazon: New Frontiers in Brazil’s Organized Crime Landscape ”, Diálogo Américas , 16 November 2022. 

[6] Crisis Group interviews, law enforcement official, Tabatinga, 10 October 2023; community leaders, Amazonas (Brazil), 2023 and 2024.

[7] Crisis Group interview, Indigenous leader, Amazonas (Brazil), September 2023. In February, nine military police officers were arrested on suspicion of diverting half a tonne of drugs seized from criminals.  See “ Operação prende nove PMs suspeitos de desviar meia tonelada de drogas no AM ”, G1 Globo , 15 February 2024. 

[8] Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Tabatinga, 10 October 2023.

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Drug cartels do not just depend on rivers to get their product to market. They recruit local men to act as “mules” and transport drugs via land across international borders. [1] Indigenous men carry loads that can weigh up to 50kg across the jungle to drop-off points in Brazil. They will walk for weeks between production areas in Peru, through Colombia’s Amacayacu National Park and along the Putumayo River. [2] They carry cocaine, as well as a potent strain of marijuana known as “creepy” that is cultivated in Colombia’s Andean region. [3] Before embarking on their journey, these Indigenous men often consult with shamans for spiritual protection. [4]

Since 2015, Brazil has emerged as a leading supplier of cocaine to European markets, but there is growing domestic demand as well. [5] A member of Comando Vermelho claims that 95 per cent of the drug retail spots in Tabatinga, known as bocas de fumo , belong to their organisation. [6] In Indigenous communities across the Colombian border, local leaders also report a rising trend of substance abuse among young people. The same holds true in cities like Leticia and other villages along drug trafficking corridors. [7]

[1] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders and church representatives, Atalaia do Norte, 18 January 2024.

[2] Crisis Group telephone interview, state official, 1 May 2024. See also Bram Ebus, “ Colombian drug runners turn to shamans for protection ”, Amazon Underworld , 15 August 2023.

[3] Criminal groups are eager to control drug transport in addition to production because the price of cocaine and base paste rises sharply en route: 1kg of cocaine base paste costs between $500 and $900 in the tri-border region but can fetch up to $4,000 in Manaus. On the streets of São Paulo, 1kg of cocaine can be sold for as much as $4,400. The cost/benefit ratio with marijuana is even higher, partly due to lower production costs. For instance, 1kg of “creepy” in the municipality of Japurá can be sold for $100, while it can cost between $800 and $1,000 in Manaus.  “Dinâmicas do mercado de drogas ilícitas no Brasil”, Centro de Excelência Para a Redução da Oferta de Drogas Ilícitas, 2022.  Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Manaus, 22 September 2023.

[4]  Ebus, “ Colombian drug runners turn to shamans for protection ”, op. cit.

[5] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leader, Amazonas (Brazil), September 2023; law enforcement official, Manaus, 22 September 2023. See also “ Justiça manda prender seis PM’s suspeitos de chefiarem esquema de tráfico de drogas, no AM ”, G1 Globo , 2 December 2022; and Gabriel Stargardter, “ Brazil’s gangs emerge as major cocaine exporters, flooding Europe with white powder ”, Reuters, 12 March 2020.

[6]   Crisis Group interviews, inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023.

[7] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023.

C. Illegal Logging, Gold Dredging and Fishing

Criminal groups are increasingly branching into illicit logging, gold dredging and fishing. These activities allow them to launder money made from drug trafficking: state officials in Brazil refer to “narco-mining” and “narco-loggers” to describe how drug profits are reinvested in the timber and gold industries. [1] But criminal groups do not just engage in these activities for laundering; they are also looking for another, safer source of income. Because law enforcement focuses on curbing the production and transport of cocaine, other illegal endeavours tend to be more lightly policed. [2] Indeed, in some cases corrupt state officials facilitate bringing illegally obtained commodities to market by providing false paperwork, which gives these groups access to the legal supply chain.  

Criminal groups have become particularly active in illegal fishing. (The activity is illegal if it is conducted in violation of government regulations, during certain months or in protected areas.) Certain species of Amazon fish command high prices, in particular arapaima gigas – known as pirarucu in Brazil and paiche in Peru. Years of unregulated overfishing have depleted pirarucu stocks, leading the governments of Peru, Colombia and Brazil to classify it as a protected species. That has done little to dent the market, however, and enterprises that can ship the fish out of the Amazon reap impressive profits. While local markets typically offer pirarucu at prices ranging from $1.50 to $2.50 per kilogram, in Leticia prices surge to around $6 before the fish is transported out of the region. [3] Such profit margins have induced drug traffickers to invest in large fishing operations, in defiance of state regulations to prevent overfishing. Additionally, there are reports that fish shipments are being used to conceal narcotics. [4]

[1] Crisis Group interviews, state officials working with Indigenous peoples, Manaus, 18 September 2023.

[2] Crisis Group interviews, environmental police, Manaus, 21 September 2023.

[3] Crisis Group interviews, environmental police, Manaus, 21 September 2023; Atalaia do Norte, 18 January 2024. See also Rodrigo Pedroso, Nelly Luna Amancio and Jonathan Hurtado, “ La triple frontera de la pesca ilegal: mafias e impunidad detrás del tráfico en la Amazonía ”, Ojo Público , June 2023.

[4] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Atalaia do Norte, 18 January 2024. Small fisheries demand that they not be equated with bigger groups that are often funded by criminal syndicates, noting that they lack the financial resources needed for the larger operations. Cícero Pedrosa Neto, “ The final minutes of Bruno and Dom in São Rafael ”, Amazônia Real , 20 June 2022. Crisis Group interview, fisherman, Javari Valley region, 19 January 2024.

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Illegal timber harvesting and processing is also rampant in the Amazon.   To legitimise Brazilian timber that was cut illegally, criminals use falsified Peruvian documents. Timber illegally downed in Peru is also imported into Colombia with forged paperwork. [1] Corrupt local authorities facilitate these activities, with officials receiving kickbacks from timber traffickers in exchange. [2] Drug traffickers also use timber to hide cocaine. [3]

Gold dredging, especially along the Purué River (which is known as the Puré as it crosses Colombia before reaching Brazil), has also been on the rise. Comando Vermelho, on occasion, allegedly finances illegal extractive operations and, in some cases, purchases gold directly from the miners. [4] Local miners also complain that Colombian guerrillas and corrupt officers in the Brazilian Military Police often extort payments from those working the river, demanding a certain amount of gold per mining dredge. [5]

Brazilian and Colombian authorities have attempted to crack down on illegal dredging, but their measures have proven ineffective: after law enforcement officers close illicit operations, the dredges resurface. Sources say corrupt state officials leak information about forthcoming operations, allowing criminals to sink the dredges intentionally; after the security forces leave, they recover the dredges or conceal them in tributary rivers. [6] In April, new dredges were detected in the Río Puré National Park, including in a do-not-enter area preserved to protect an Indigenous tribe in voluntary isolation, the Yurí-Passé (see Section V.A). State officials have spotted additional dredges on the Purité and Cotuhé Rivers, in Colombia’s Amacayacu National Park and on the border with Peru, during flyovers. [7]

[1] An unintended consequence of stricter regulation is that communities that historically depended on timber for their livelihoods are struggling. In Islandia, a Peruvian village once reliant on timber, the collapse of mills following forest concession restrictions on cutting down trees pushed residents into illicit activities such as picking coca leaf. Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Atalaia do Norte, 18 January 2023; residents and entrepreneurs, Islandia, January 2024.

[2]   “ Condenando el Bosque ”, Environmental Investigation Agency, June 2019.

[3] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Atalaia do Norte, 18 January 2023.

[4] Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Manaus, 22 September 2023.

[5]   Bram Ebus and Rodrigo Pedroso, “ Gold spurs crime and corruption on Brazil-Colombia border ”, Amazon Underworld , 3 August 2023.

[6] Crisis Group interview, Indigenous leader, Amazonas (Brazil), September 2023; Colombian law enforcement officials, Leticia, 10 October 2023.

[7] Crisis Group interviews, NGO representatives, April 2024.  See also Pilar Puentes, “ Parque Nacional Amacayacu: rodeado por la minería ilegal y controlado por grupos armados que restringen el ingreso de guardaparques ”, Mongabay , 17 October 2023.

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D. Flawed Law Enforcement

Law enforcement in the area is underequipped, understaffed and ill prepared to respond to the violence and environment degradation brought about by the expansion of organised crime. Police and other security forces across the tri-border region acknowledge the need to better coordinate their approach to crime. “What happens there affects us here”, a Colombian law enforcement official said, referring to crime on the other side of the Peruvian and Brazilian borders. [1] The fact that no country’s forces can pursue or arrest criminals outside their own jurisdiction is one reason illegal groups are able to operate with impunity in the region. 

Criminals know they can take advantage of the porous borders. An inmate in Tabatinga’s prison explained that illicit dealings such as money handovers are conducted within metres of the border, allowing for a quick escape if the police show up. [2] The police in Leticia and Tabatinga communicate via WhatsApp, but due to unreliable internet connections in the area, messages sometimes arrive too late. [3] Senior gang members in Tabatinga are rumoured to keep a low profile during times of increased scrutiny on the outskirts of Leticia, avoiding encounters with Brazilian law enforcement on their side of the border. [4]

Lack of resources also hampers security forces’ ability to deal with crime. The police force’s predicament in the Peruvian town of Islandia, which is in effect an island, is telling. Their two boats are broken down; as a result, they cannot pursue drug and timber traffickers who freely glide by their outpost. Officers pooled their own money to buy a Wi-Fi router, but they have been unable to pay for internet service and they still lack a working printer for official documents. [5] Colombian state officials told Crisis Group that before the Carolina Ramírez front prohibited National Parks Institute employees from operating in the area, park rangers could monitor criminal activity from a control post near the border where the Puré River crosses into Brazil. “For six years, we managed to avoid having [mining barges], so it can be done”, said a state official. [6] But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the outpost was burned down, and mining barges started coming across the border from Brazil. [7] It has not yet been rebuilt. 

[1] Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Leticia, October 2023.

[2] Crisis Group interviews, inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023.

[3] Crisis Group interviews, police officers, Tabatinga, October 2024.

[5] Crisis Group interviews, law enforcement officials, Mariscal Ramón Castilla, January 2024.

[6] Crisis Group interview, state official, Leticia, October 2023.

[7]   Lucía Franco, “ La violencia impide a Colombia proteger diez parques nacionales de la Amazonia ”, El País , 12 May 2022.

With limited funding, state institutions also find it hard to protect vulnerable communities and the environment. The state agency for Indigenous affairs in Brazil, FUNAI, can only operate in the field with the accompaniment of security forces because of constant threats to their staff, making it difficult to respond to criminal activity in a timely fashion. [1] FUNAI officials voice concern about how easy it is to commit crimes with impunity in the Amazon’s Indigenous lands. [2] Similarly, in recent months, Brazil’s environmental police, the  Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation have scaled back field inspections aimed at combating illegal deforestation and gold extraction on Indigenous lands. [3] After Brazilian President  Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government managed  a 50 per cent reduction in deforestation in its first year in office in 2023, the drop in the number of inspections has roused concern as to whether environmentally destructive practices may rise once again. [4]

Low salaries for state officials, meanwhile, have bred rampant corruption in the three border countries. Police officers in Peru’s Mariscal Ramón Castilla province have been implicated in facilitating drug trafficking and even directly participating in illicit activities. [5] Similarly, in Colombia, army officers lament that criminals are able to “buy” – read, bribe authorities to provide – intelligence, compromising law enforcement efforts. [6] Sources also told Crisis Group that Brazilian security forces share information with criminal networks. A lieutenant colonel in the Brazilian army, for example, has been accused of receiving nearly $200,000 in bribes to tip off miners about impending crackdowns between 2020 and 2022. [7] In 2023, the security secretary of the Brazilian state of Amazonas was arrested on suspicion of collaboration with a criminal organisation. [8]

[2]   Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Amazonas (Brazil), 2023.

[3] Mariana Durao and Leonardo Lara, “ Brazil labor spat thwarts Lula’s bid to boost growth and save the Amazon ”, Bloomberg, 6 April 2024.

[4] Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Amazonas (Brazil), 2023.

[5] Three police officers were sentenced to eighteen months of pretrial detention in June 2023.  Doris Aguirre, “ Loreto: agentes PNP eran ‘topos’ de narco en el trapecio amazónico ”, La República , 22 June 2023.

[6] For example, illegal gold miners often get tips about impending crackdowns. When they do, they simply move their mining barges from Colombiaacross the border into Brazil, or vice versa, as police in the two countries rarely coordinate their operations.  Crisis Group interviews, law enforcement officials, Leticia, 10 October 2023. 

[7] The official has claimed he is innocent, and his lawyer stated that his client was accused in retaliation for the work he has done in the region fighting illegal mining.  Eduardo Gonçalves, “ PF aponta que militar recebeu R$ 930 mil para vazar dados de operações a garimpeiros da Amazônia ”, O Globo , 29 June 2023.

[8]   Vinicius Sassine, “ Secretário de Segurança do AM é preso em operação sobre extorsão a criminosos ”, Folha de S. Paulo , 29 August 2023.

IV. Violence in the Amazon

Even by the standards of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Amazon now stands out for its high rates of violence. [1]   In 2022, Leticia emerged as Colombia’s second most violent town, while Tabatinga reported a homicide rate of 80 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2023, ranking among the highest in the Amazon. [2] Much of this violence stems from competition between rival criminal groups over illegal rackets and turf.

[1]   W ith only 8 per cent of the world’s population, Latin America and the Caribbean account for 29 per cent of homicides worldwide.  See Ebus and Eberle, “ Crimes against the Climate: Violence and Deforestation in the Amazon ”, op. cit.; “ Environmental and Climate Justice, and the Dynamics of Violence in Latin America ”, SIPRI, February 2024; and  “ Justicia ambiental y climática, y las dinámicas de violencia en América Latina ”, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Colombia, February 2024.

[2]   Data  provided by the Colombian national police.

The murders of Dom Phillips, a correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian, and his local guide, Indigenous rights defender Bruno Pereira, brought the region’s high level of violence to international attention. [1] Well before these killings, criminality had been on the upswing across the region. Communities in the area have seen murders, and some of their leaders have been forcibly displaced, while criminal groups have stepped up their recruitment of minors. [2]

Violence has intensified in the urban areas of the tri-border region as crime rings vie for control of illicit markets, while armed outfits in the rainforest threaten those suspected of informing state authorities or opposing their operations. A network of sicarios  (paid assassins)   who evade capture have become notorious in the region. They avoid answering for their crimes not just because state and security institutions are lax, but also because they can easily slip across borders. They may commit a murder in Tabatinga, Brazil, but then pass through an unsupervised crossing into Leticia, Colombia, or take a boat a few hundred metres to Peru. 

An Indigenous man who worked for a criminal group that operates in Brazil, Colombia and Peru recounted his own story as an example of how these organisations draw in local teenagers to carry out acts of violence. At the age of thirteen he began working for a drug dealer, his main job being to connect young Indigenous girls to sexual exploitation rings. [3] By age seventeen, he was a hit man, eventually rising to become coordinator of a group comprising over three dozen contract killers. [4] This criminal career, he said, left both physical and mental scars. “Every night when I close my eyes, I see the faces of those I’ve murdered, the bodies I have dismembered”, the sicario confessed. [5]

[1] According to local authorities, Pereira was the main target of the attack and Phillips may have been collateral damage. Although then-Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claimed that Phillips was disliked in the region, calling his journalistic endeavour ill advised, intelligence officers believe the men were attacked because of an escalating dispute between Pereira and local fisherfolk. The slow state response to the crime led local Indigenous groups to organise search committees, which uncovered criminal interests competing in the tri-border region. Ruben Dario da Silva Villar, known as “Colombia”, a Peruvian drug trafficker with ties to both the cocaine and fishing industries, is alleged to be the mastermind behind the killings; three men who have been arrested await trial. “Dom Philips was at the wrong place on the wrong day”, a local law enforcement official said. Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Amazonas (Brazil), October 2023. Tom Phillips, “ Indigenous groups scour forests and rivers for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira ”, The Guardian , 10 June 2022. Constance Malleret, “ Brazil police make new arrest in Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira murder investigation ”, The Guardian , 19 January 2024. 

[2] A young man interviewed in a local jail told Crisis Group that he had no choice but to join a gang to keep his family safe; the only decision in his hands was which of the groups operating in the area he would prefer to become part of.  Crisis Group interviews, inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023. See also “ Dos masacres en Amazonas: nuevo escenario en la disputa de las disidencias de Farc ”, El Espectador , 13 April 2022.

[3] Local crime groups often recruit young men and women who live nearby. Most victims of these groups also come from this same segment of the population. Crisis Group interview, state official, Islandia, 20 January 2024.

[4]   Most recruits are between the ages of eighteen and 22, although gangs occasionally enlist minors as young as eight as lookouts or involve them in drug sales in schools. Crisis Group interview, NGO representative, Tabatinga, October 2023. 

[5] Crisis Group interview, member of criminal organisation, Amazonas (Colombia), November 2023.

Once a person has joined a criminal group, leaving is very difficult. For those determined to quit an organisation, becoming a member of an evangelical church is the most reliable way out. These churches have come to an understanding with gang leaders under which a member’s withdrawal will be accepted so long as he or she can demonstrate true devotion and faith. [1] “The government cannot pull this off, and it doesn’t cost the state any money”, declared an evangelical church leader in Benjamin Constant, a small Brazilian town. [2] But not everyone is offered such a choice. The former boss of the Indigenous sicario , a prominent local drug trafficker, owned plantations in Peru where, he said, the bodies of enemies were fed to caimans. [3]

Organised crime groups have established themselves in the main urban centres in this part of the Amazon, bringing spikes of deadly violence in their wake. Targets of planned killings in Tabatinga receive warnings through death lists, disseminated via social media and text messaging groups. In the lists that Crisis Group was shown, individuals had the word decretado (ordered) scrawled across pictures of their faces. [4] The lists included members of rival groups, women involved in drug sales for competing factions and men believed to be vying for the affections of a gang member’s girlfriend. [5]

Gender-based violence has become alarmingly common in Tabatinga, but there are few support services or safe houses in the town. Other parts of Brazil – particularly big cities such as Rio de Janeiro – offer more of a safety net, often with the support of state agencies such as Brazil’s Ministry of Women. Gang members have reportedly perpetrated group rapes in Tabatinga, where victims include minors. [6] In early 2024, members of Comando Vermelho spray-painted threats on the walls of the sole safe house for victims of gender-based violence in Tabatinga. [7] On the Colombian side of the border, the Amazonas department has the highest rate of gender-based violence nationwide. [8] Young women and girls from riverine communities on the Colombian and Peruvian sides of the Amazon are often enticed, sometimes under false pretences, to work in coca-growing areas in Peru, where they are frequently subjected to sexual exploitation or even death. Sexual violence is particularly pervasive in Indigenous communities, often going hand in hand with alcohol consumption. [9]

State security forces also perpetrate violence, locals told Crisis Group. In Tabatinga, officers from Brazil’s Military Police allegedly tortured and killed seven men in 2021; some of the bodies were then disposed of at the local garbage dump. [10] Public officials in the area say they are aware of these allegations. [11] Judicial consequences for these actions, however, have remained elusive. “I don’t think the justice system is prepared to go after law enforcement officers”, a state source said. [12] Family members of one murder victim have received explicit threats warning them not to draw attention to the lack of repercussions for the perpetrators of violence. [13] “In our perception, these [criminal] organisations are very well organised also inside the institutions, especially the police”, officials in Tabatinga explained. [14] Senior Military Police officers in Tabatinga interviewed by Crisis Group dismissed allegations of corruption and wrongdoing inside their institution. [15]

[1] Crisis Group interviews, church and Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Brazil), January 2024.

[3] Crisis Group interview, member of criminal organisation, Amazonas (Colombia), November 2023.

[4] Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Tabatinga, 10 October 2023; NGO representative, Tabatinga, 15 November 2023; inmates, Tabatinga, 16 November 2023.

[5] Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Tabatinga, 10 October 2023.

[7] Crisis Group telephone interview, NGO representative, 8 May 2024.

[8] “ Briefing Departamental, Amazonas, enero a diciembre de 2023 ”, UN OCHA, May 2024.

[9] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous community leaders, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, 2023 and 2024.

[10]   Fabiano Maisonnave, “ After a sergeant's death, Military Police wreck carnage in Amazonas state ”, Folha de S. Paulo , 30 June 2021. Sources have indicated to Crisis Group that an inquiry is still under way. Crisis Group telephone interviews, April and May 2024. Brazil’s Military Police is a state-level security force tasked with maintaining public order and safety. Each of Brazil’s 26 states and the Federal District has its own Military Police force, operating under the authority of the state governor. Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Amazonas (Brazil), 2023 and 2024.

[11]   Crisis Group interviews, state officials, Amazonas, 2023.

[12]   Ibid.

[13] Crisis Group telephone interview, family member of murder victim, May 2024.

[14] Crisis Group interview, Brazilian state official, Manaus, 18 September 2023.

[15]   Crisis Group interviews, Military Police officers, Tabatinga, October 2024; state officials, Bogotá, 5 June 2024. 

V. Communities and the Environment

Encroaching criminal activity is threatening the safety of communities that have long made the Amazon their home, damaging the places where they live and breeding violence. Indigenous groups and ribeirinhos – non-natives of the rainforest who came to the Amazon during the rubber fever of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries – feel under threat and unprotected by the state. Because of their critical role as defenders of the environment, attacks on these Indigenous communities could open the way to accelerating destruction of the rainforest.

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A. Indigenous Groups under Threat

Criminal groups’ incursions into Indigenous lands endanger these communities. [1] One area under threat is Brazil’s Javari Valley, which is home to a mix of voluntarily isolated groups and others in “initial contact” with the Western world. (Initial contact refers to the period when outside groups first establish regular communication and a formal relationship with the previously secluded group. [2] ) The Yurí-Passé – a semi-nomadic group comprised of approximately 400 members who have lived in voluntary isolation for at least 500 years in Río Puré National Park in Colombia – are also at risk. [3] Guerrilla factions and illegal gold miners are trespassing on their land, which could lead to their extinction, in large part because the newcomers may expose them to diseases to which they lack immunity. According to an expert on Indigenous affairs, “these unregulated contacts typically slip under the institutional radar and generate disastrous consequences”. [4] Once these groups are gone, the forest will become more vulnerable to exploitation, potentially with cascading effects that harm the entire ecosystem.

Demarcating territories – essentially, establishing legal boundaries around land deemed to belong to specific communities – is helpful but insufficient to protect these groups. Brazil, Colombia and Peru have gone to great lengths to demarcate Indigenous territories, but in the absence of effective state and security services, criminal groups are nonetheless encroaching upon these areas. In Brazil, Indigenous leaders complain that sharing detailed information about drug trafficking routes and the modus operandi of local crime syndicates with law enforcement has not led to a tangible response. [5]

Indeed, members of these groups say speaking up is dangerous. One Indigenous leader told Crisis Group that violent threats from criminals seeking to exploit the region’s natural resources forced him to leave the Javari Valley. Not even relocation protected him from this criminal group: armed men, he said, hunted him down in his safe house in the Brazilian interior . [6]  In Colombia, guerrilla organisations and criminal groups have entered Indigenous territories to recruit young people, threatening community leaders who protest their presence. Indigenous leaders in Peru, meanwhile, have denounced state officials for selling plots of land inside legally demarcated Indigenous territories to private investors. [7]

Given the high stakes not just for those vulnerable to recruitment but the very survival of Indigenous communities, members of these groups have organised their own patrols, keeping an eye on rivers and other access points to their land. [8] While these initiatives could, in theory, operate as an early warning system for government officials seeking to stave off criminal groups’ illicit incursions, they have not done so in practice. Villagers on the Colombian side of the Amazon, for example, alerted local police that pelacaras (the word used for armed intruders), had entered their territory on several occasions in 2023, but law enforcement did not act on the tip. [9] Similarly, Indigenous leaders in Peru have reported that members of Os Crías and Comando Vermelho are present in the villages of Bellavista Callaru, Santa Rosa and Caballococha. [10]

[1] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Atalaia do Norte, 17 January 2023.

[2] Brazil’s state agency FUNAI is responsible for initial contact with isolated Indigenous groups and mitigating the risks brought about by interaction.

[3]   Crisis Group interview, state official, Leticia, October 2023.

[4] According to international law, including the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, states have an obligation to protect ethnic groups in voluntary isolation. Crisis Group telephone interview, Indigenous peoples expert, 13 April 2024. Besides violent threats, rapid modernisation and the introduction of internet service generate challenges for remote Indigenous communities. Jack Nicas, “ The internet’s final frontier: Remote Amazon tribes ”, The New York Times , 2 June 2024.

[5] Crisis Group interview, Indigenous leader, Amazonas (Brazil), September 2023.

[6] Crisis Group telephone interview, Indigenous leader, 5 October 2023.

[7] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders in Mariscal Ramón Castilla and Atalaia do Norte, November 2023 and January 2024. See also Alerta Temprana Nº 007-24, Colombia’s Human Rights Ombudsman, 18 March 2024.

[8] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023.

[9]  Ibid. Law enforcement officials claimed the tip was based on rumour  rather  than any serious threat. Crisis Group interviews, law enforcement officials, Leticia, October 2023.

[10] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023.

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B. Brazil’s Ribeirinhos

Ribeirinhos , the descendants of workers recruited to labour in the Amazon rubber industry in the 20 th century, also struggle to get by in the region. The ribeirinhos – or “river people” in English – have long dwelled in poverty. Lured into the forest to harvest latex in the late 19 th century and work on rubber plantations during World War II, they were subjected to exploitative conditions, in some cases enduring indentured servitude. Today, their descendants support themselves by fishing. Increasingly, however, they are finding it difficult to pursue this livelihood.

One cause of their difficulties is the Brazilian government’s move in the 1990s to demarcate Indigenous lands in the Javari Valley to protect ancestral groups threatened by loggers. Although this initiative had the interests of communities and the environment at heart, one of its side effects was to limit the ribeirinhos ’   ability to fish in Indigenous lands. Members of Indigenous groups now patrol the waters and confront the fisherfolk, sometimes with shotguns. They are not the only ones clamping down on the ribeirinhos. “I was born in Indigenous territory”, said a senior ribeirinho , whose father relocated to the region during the World War II rubber boom. Now, he complains, state and federal security forces have increased their scrutiny of environmental offences. They punish him even when he is carrying fish caught in permitted zones. [1]

To be sure, the ribeirinhos  are not blameless bystanders. Several ribeirinhos were arrested in conjunction with the murders of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips. In the aftermath, law enforcement has cracked down on ribeirinhos fishing in protected waters. Restrictions on their traditional livelihoods, however, have forced more of them to seek work in illicit markets. Organised crime outfits often have particular success drawing younger ribeirinhos into their ranks. [2]

[1] Crisis Group interview, fisher, Javari Valley region, 19 January 2024.

[2] Crisis Group interview, NGO representative, Tabatinga, 15 November 2023.

C. Environmental Harm

The surge in criminal activity in the tri-border region has harmed the environment, although not at rates seen in other parts of the Amazon. [1] Across the Amazon basin, cattle ranching and industrial agriculture are the main forces destroying the rainforest. [2] That is not the case in the tri-border region, particularly in Peru, where coca plantations – which require razing fewer hectares of forest than the other businesses destroying the jungle – are the primary driver of environmental degradation. [3] Still, the quick expansion of criminal economies likely prefigures worse levels of environmental destruction and loss of state control of the rainforest in the future. Already penetrated by illegal gold miners and drug traffickers, these border zones could become one of the next Amazon wastelands if urgent action is not taken. Sources affirm that several Indigenous leaders have granted permission for coca plantations in exchange for cash. “They have gladly decided to raze their forest”, an Indigenous community leader told Crisis Group. [4]  

It is not just the cultivation of coca, but also the production of cocaine that is damaging the forest. In the process of making coca paste, laboratories operated by criminal groups discharge chemical waste – including acetone, gasoline and sulfuric acid – into the Amazon’s rivers and soil. [5] Near Tipísca, in Colombia, locals complain about the drug labs in nearby Peruvian communities. “It affects us because when it rains, all the chemicals are washed into the river”, said an Indigenous leader, who added that her community is forced to consume contaminated waters. [6]  

[1]   For the most current data on Amazon deforestation, see the monitoring tools provided by  Global Forest Watch .

[2]  Crisis Group Latin America Report N°91, A Broken Canopy: Preventing Deforestation and Conflict in Colombia , 4 November 2021. 

[3] Daniel Yovera and Carlos Mauriola, “ Yavarí, un corredor de Loreto bajo asedio ”, La República , 4 March 2024.

[4] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023;  Indigenous leader, Atalaia do Norte, 18 January 2024.  See also Brehaut, “ Los Israelitas del Nuevo Pacto Universal en el Perú: religión, deforestación y narcotráfico ”, op. cit.  

[5] “ World Drug Report 2023 ”, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2023.

[6] Producing one kilogram of cocaine requires over 300l of gasoline. It is common to see men in small Peruvian towns moving barrels of chemicals through the village’s main streets. Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023.

Human settlement has also accelerated deforestation. A Christian group known as the Israelites has built several compounds, especially on the Peruvian side of the border. Anticipating a severe drought and famine that they believe will mark the beginning of the final judgment, the cult’s leadership instructed followers to settle in the jungle. The settlers have cleared land near their homes, making them a significant driver of deforestation. [1]

Illegal gold extraction is also befouling the Amazon’s rivers, such as the Puré (Purué). The gargantuan mining dredges move so much sediment in search of fine concentrations of gold that they sometimes alter the course of rivers. These machines can cost up to $500,000 each, but the returns are so big that the operators recoup their investment within a few months. [2] Another alarming effect of the search for gold is the discharge of toxic quicksilver mercury into rivers and surrounding land, which can cause irreversible damage to the nervous systems of those who ingest it. [3] Blood tests of Indigenous people residing along rivers where mining dredges operate register mercury levels far above what is considered safe. [4]

[1]  Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023. See also  Brehaut, “ Los Israelitas del Nuevo Pacto Universal en el Perú: religión, deforestación y narcotráfico ”op. cit.; and Phillips, “ The isolated tribes at risk of illness from Amazon missionaries ”, op. cit. 

[2] Ebus and Pedroso, “ Gold spurs crime and corruption on Brazil-Colombia border ”, op. cit.

[3]   As a rule of thumb, at least three grams of mercury are necessary to trap a gram of gold in an amalgam. The use of mercury is common in gold dredging, despite Brazil, Colombia and Peru having ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury that prohibits it. “ Opening the Black Box: Local Insights Into the Formal and Informal Global Mercury Trade Revealed ”, IUCN NL, 2021.

[4] “Contenido de Mercurio en comunidades étnicas de la Subregión planicie en la Amazonia Colombiana”, Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, 2018.

VI. Strengthening Responses to Crime

A. improving security cooperation.

An effective security strategy for the tri-border region must include at its heart the three countries’ states and security services. A number of small-scale efforts to forge greater collaboration have already proven fruitful. [1] These could be given far greater impetus by the joint declaration at an August 2023 summit of the eight Amazon countries that form the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation, which pledged to “promote the exchange of information and enhance police and intelligence cooperation to combat illegal activities and environmental crimes affecting the Amazon Region”. [2] Notably, it proposes establishing a regional police cooperation centre in Manaus. Also in 2023, Colombia announced a plan to create another coordination centre in Leticia. [3]

Regardless of which new centres are created, Brazil, Colombia and Peru should build on the 2023 summit and foster increased cooperation and intelligence sharing among their security agencies. Standardising environmental crime legislation among countries and using technological tools such as satellite imagery to detect illegal activities – including the operation of coca plantations and illicit dredging projects – is essential. Judicial and police agencies should organise cross-border projects to enforce laws against money laundering and trafficking of narcotics, timber, gold and mercury. These strategies should be designed in collaboration with representatives from local communities, who have the greatest understanding of how crime is operating on the ground and are the most adept forest stewards in Latin America. (State officials should first, of course, vet the Indigenous leaders to make sure they have not entered in dealings with the criminal groups. [4] )

[1] Small steps – such as the secondment of two Peruvian police officers to the Brazilian counter-narcotics operations in Manaus and a memorandum of understanding among Brazil, Colombia and Peru inked in 2008 to combat illicit activities in border areas and along common rivers – have increased the effectiveness of patrols. Crisis Group interviews, Brazilian and Colombian law enforcement officials, 2023.

[2]   Established in 1978, the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation had experienced a period of decline in the late 2010s. But in August 2023, representatives of the eight Amazon countries gathered in Brazil under the organisation’s auspices with the overarching goal of fostering the “harmonious development of Amazonian territories”. The declaration also highlighted the risks faced by human rights defenders and Indigenous leaders and aimed to promote and finance the protection and activities of social and environmental defenders in the Amazon. “ Get to know the Belem Declaration signed by the Amazon countries at the Summit ”, press release, Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation, 9 August 2023.

[3]   “ Colombia creará una unidad de la Policía para la protección del agua ”, W Radio, 14 May 2024.

[4] Colombian President Petro has made a priority of cooperation with local communities, including through a state-run pilot project to give financial incentives to residents to conserve forests in conflict-affected areas. “ Forest Governance by Indigenous and Tribal Peoples ”, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2021. Daniel Esteban Reyes Espinosa, “ ‘Conservar Paga’, el incentivo de Ministerio Ambiente para cuidar el Amazonia ”, Infobae , 11 November 2023. In Brazil, an official spoke of the need for improved dialogue with communities so that state agencies can react promptly to the information and alerts their representatives provide. Crisis Group interview, law enforcement official, Manaus, 21 September 2023.

Governments should adopt a multi-faceted approach to tackle entrenched corruption and state involvement in illegal activities, which have fostered mutual distrust between security forces operating in the tri-border region and hampered coordination. Authorities must strengthen public prosecutors’ ability to investigate environmental crimes that might involve state officials or politicians, including by providing regional offices with sufficient staff and equipping them with tools to trace financial flows associated with graft. Those officials found guilty should receive punishments that are severe enough to act as a deterrent to others. Furthermore, establishing robust oversight mechanisms, such as independent ombudsman offices or external audit bodies to monitor the activities of law enforcement agencies, can help minimise corruption among these forces. Finally, encouraging communities to denounce corruption among the state officials working in their territories is essential for holding law enforcement accountable and creating a stronger system of checks and balances.

Foreign capitals should pursue those with deep pockets who can be held accountable for damaging the health of the Amazon. The European Union should deploy its renewed framework on environmental crimes, working with local law enforcement and Indigenous communities to sanction those responsible for law-breaking, including illicit wildlife and mercury trafficking. [1] Shedding light on illegal extraction of commodities such as gold and timber, which contributes to the Amazon’s destruction and finances crime, can help identify those responsible for bankrolling environmentally harmful activities. Similarly, the U.S. Treasury and State Departments should include environmental offenders in the  Office of Foreign Assets Control   list, allowing global banks to take action against money laundering by these individuals. [2] International donors should also provide resources and technical assistance to financial intelligence units operating on both the national and regional level in Colombia, Brazil and Peru, so they can better follow illicit money trails and enable sanctions to be targeted more effectively. 

[1] “ Environmental crimes: Deal on new offences and reinforced sanctions ”, press release, European Parliament, 16 November 2023. Imposition of environmental sanctions has been limited to date, taking place almost entirely in Asia.

[2] Crisis Group telephone interviews, U.S. officials and money laundering experts, May 2024.

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B. Community Livelihoods and Defence

All three border countries should address the socio-economic conditions that entice residents to join criminal groups. They could, for example, consider pooling resources and efforts to bring state services to cross-border areas, including mobile clinics – with staff qualified to help survivors of gender-based violence – and schools that could reach people in remote places where it is unlikely that permanent facilities will be built. Responses to climate-driven emergencies such as floods, droughts and forest fires would be more effective if transnational teams could also operate across borders and draw upon funding from the three capitals and foreign donors. At the same time, authorities from the three countries should be mindful of the potential impact of new policies on the livelihoods of people living in the area. While protecting the ecosystem is crucial, cracking down on subsistence economies without providing alternative paths to legal employment could push more people to engage in criminal activity.

These tensions need to be handled with particular care when demarcating more Indigenous collective lands in this region. Demarcation can help empower Indigenous communities to defend themselves from those wanting to use their territory for illicit activities. [1] Collective land titles recognise the unique relation that Indigenous groups have to the land. They also give communities the rights to self-determination and to defend their cultural practices. [2] Therefore, along with the demarcation of the territories, a legal framework is in place that recognises the authority of Indigenous governance structures over the land (the specific form depends on the country or ethnicity). This legal recognition empowers communities in their interactions with the state, including the police or armed forces, which are legally mandated to safeguard their collective rights and provide protection.

[1] Indigenous leaders have been outspoken in their criticism of Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who had promised to accelerate demarcation of collective lands in his campaign but has not delivered during his first year in government. “ Indigenous Brazilians lament Lula’s unfulfilled land demarcation promises ”, Common Dreams , 19 April 2024. 

[2] All Latin American countries are signatories of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, which recognises the collective rights of Indigenous communities. This treaty, together with the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognised the right of these peoples to self-determination, is the legal bedrock of the demand for collective land rights. “ Guaranteeing Indigenous People’s Rights in Latin America: Progress in the Past Decade and Remaining Challenges ”, ECLAC, November 2014.

That said, moves to demarcate more Indigenous land should play close heed to the presence and needs of other people who might drift into the orbit of organised crime if they are not allowed to pursue their livelihoods. Non-Indigenous groups such as the ribeirinhos could also be granted additional rights to land ownership and use of resources through collective or community titling, so long as these are complemented by appropriate environmental regulations encouraging forest-friendly activities. 

Across the vast stretches of the Amazon, meanwhile, law enforcement agencies will struggle to strengthen their presence unless they form strong links with communities. Local people are best positioned to detect when violent groups pose a threat to their territory, and they could alert security forces to any suspicious movements. [1] To this end, states and their foreign partners should also support Indigenous guards that have sprung up in response to criminal incursions. [2] On their own, these generally unarmed informal networks are unlikely to be able to ward off intruders who are bearing weapons. But law enforcement agencies should be encouraged to build ties with these groups and act upon the information they provide rather than spurning their requests for assistance, as often happens now.

[1] Crisis Group interviews, Indigenous leaders, Amazonas (Colombia), October 2023.

[2] Indigenous guards have been effective in defending their territories in Colombia, but have encountered greater resistance elsewhere, including Brazil and Mexico.  “ Pueblos indígenas latinoamericanos en la mira del narcotráfico y la insurgencia ”, IWGIA, 8 April 2022.  “ In Brazil, Indigenous Ka’apor take their territory’s defense into their own hands ”, Mongabay , 14 March 2022.

VII. Conclusion

Criminal groups are filling their coffers at the expense of the Amazon rainforest and the populations it shelters. For communities scattered across the tri-border area, these outfits offer employment but also cause acute unease as they perpetrate violence, pollute land and waterways, and stake illegitimate claims to swathes of territory. Deforestation in this frontier zone has not reached the extremes seen elsewhere in the rainforest. But the weakness of local authorities, and the ways in which expanding criminal outfits reinforce a combination of deadly violence, community breakdown and environmental damage, raise urgent questions as to whether the three states can honour the commitments they have made to protect the Amazon’s biodiversity and its essential role as a global climate regulator. 

These issues will be at the forefront of major international events tackling global environmental challenges: the Biodiversity COP16 in Cali, Colombia in October 2024; the G20 Summit that Brazil will host in November 2024; and the Climate COP30 which will gather in Belém do Pará, in the Brazilian Amazon, in November 2025. States present at these meetings should take care not to issue grand pledges to protect the environment without also addressing the grassroots conditions in the Amazon, as well as the corrosive effects that crime, illicit livelihoods and state corruption could have on the possibility of putting green promises into action.

Joint law enforcement efforts led by the Amazon countries and backed by foreign partners will be crucial to force criminal groups onto the back foot. In regions that are difficult to govern – where transport is infrequent and expensive, and state bodies often have lower budgets than those of organised crime – local authorities will need to collaborate more closely with communities, while inhabitants will need better access to legal employment if they are to be dissuaded from joining criminal groups. World leaders seeking to harness these summits to safeguard the Amazon for humanity should not lose sight of the crime festering in the rainforest. 

Bogotá/Brussels, 17 July 2024

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