The Amazon is one of the planet’s remaining wild places. Tribes still isolate themselves deep in the jungle forests, cut off from the modern world. During the 2014 World Cup members of a tribe made contact. This alarmed Brazilians, for they would not make contact unless something was wrong. Loggers, drug smugglers, and other violent forces were gradually encroaching on their land.
In the city of Manaus in the middle of the Amazon, Sergeant Afonos Camacho is murdered while working a side job as private security. This touches off a weekend massacre by the local police seeking vengeance. They call themselves the Ghost Riders, named after Marvel comic’s vengeance-seeking anti-hero.
In Northern Brazil, along the Transamazonica highway, the Belo Monte Dam nears completion. Dreamed up during Brazil’s dictator era, the dam brings with it boom-and-bust growth, corruption and encroachment on the jungle and tribal lands.
Chris Arnold, born in Brazil and raised in the United States, returns to the country of his roots to take stock of the state of the Amazon. Arnold bravely explores deep into territory that most Americans won’t go. He produces a riveting, page-turning nonfiction account of crime and the ethical dilemmas of development in Brazil’s jungles.
Arnold sketches enough history to provide context for Brazil’s present. Brazil’s native population suffered horrific violence and degradation by the white colonists, particularly during the rubber boom. Tribes fled deep into the jungle to escape death, predation, and slavery. Now their days are seemingly numbered as new booms threaten their way of life.
The chapters on the weekend massacre read like a noire detective story. Arnold traces the secret investigation that attempts to apprehend the police who committed such a brazen assault on the streets of Manaus.
Illegal logging, drug lords and corruption threaten the future of the Amazon. Arnold’s fascinating reporting offers an essential glimpse of that world.