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Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 02:22 GMT
Brazil launches Amazon crackdown
Greenpeace ship pursues illegal loggers
Illegal loggers chopped down an area of rainforest the size of Hawaii in 1999
By Tom Gibb in Sao Paulo

The Brazilian Government has announced a major new plan to try to clean the Amazon jungle of drug traffickers, illegal loggers and miners.

Police and army units are being sent to patrol the world's largest rainforest.

The programme, called Pro Amazonia, is the latest of many announced over the last year and will cost $435m.

The patrols will be backed up by satellite surveillance as well as a $1.4bn radar system along the Colombian border which was announced earlier this year.

Brazil is worried that the war against drugs in Colombia could push traffickers over the border.

But despite all the technology, it is an extremely difficult task to patrol almost two million square miles of often impenetrable jungle.

Forest destruction

At the same time, the patrols will try to clean out illegal loggers and gold miners, many of whom have been moving into areas reserved for the Amazon's dwindling Indian population.

Destruction of the Amazon is continuing at a pace which alarms many experts.

Last year, according to the government's own figures, an area the size of Hawaii was cleared by illegal loggers.

The plan reflects Brazil's new priority of defence of the Amazon, with army units being moved to the area from the south.

Intelligence from aerial surveillance could be shared with other countries in the region.

However, the Brazilian authorities have been very clear that they don't want to join in Plan Colombia, the $7.5bn US-backed effort against the Colombian drug trade.

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See also:

17 Oct 00 | Americas
Cardoso warns against drug 'war'
17 Oct 00 | Americas
Americas' summit tackles drugs
15 Sep 00 | Americas
Amazon tribe wins legal battle
18 Apr 00 | Americas
Protests mar Brazil's birthday
12 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Amazon tree loss continues
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