Operation Green Brazil: Contributions and Challenges for the Preservation of the Amazon

This article was originally published on the workbook Ambiente Estratégico 2022: Seguridad, Desarrollo y Defensa Nacional (only available in Spanish).


Throughout Brazilian history, its Armed Forces (FF. AA.) have been present in practically the entire territory, guaranteeing sovereignty and contributing to national development. In this context, the Brazilian Army is one of the State institutions with the largest number of troops and logistical capacity in the Amazon region, which includes one of the most important and coveted terrestrial biomes on the planet. Currently, environmental guidelines and the preservation of the Amazon are issues that dominate the international stage and require effective actions by governments for the protection and sustainable development of this important heritage. In this sense, this article analyzes the contributions of Operation Green Brazil executed between 2019 and 2021 to protect and preserve the Brazilian Amazon, through actions of the Armed Forces aimed at enhancing the capacities of environmental control bodies, limiting deforestation and combating criminal organizations present in this region.

Keywords: Amazon, Operation Green Brazil, Environmental Protection, Interagency Operations.


The preservation of the environment is an issue that most often occupies the international agenda. From the 1980s onwards, the subject of international security began to consider, in addition to military aspects, economic, social, political and environmental aspects, thus establishing integral concepts for the analysis of international security, such as those theorized by the Copenhagen School.[1] Currently, because the international environment is characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, this situation exposes nation-states to different types of conventional and unconventional threats. One of these threats is environmental degradation that negatively and significantly affects the security and national development of countries, especially those with large tracts of forests, such as the Amazon.

The Amazon occupies about 60 % of Brazilian territory and is considered one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.[2] In addition, different studies indicate the existence of great economic potential in this region, product of its rich and vast natural resources. Therefore, this situation attracts the greed of national and international actors who seek to exploit resources, often without the consent of the Brazilian State and without concern for sustainable development, negatively affecting this important terrestrial biome.

To maintain the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Brazilian Amazon, the Brazilian Armed Forces (FF. AA.) have a large number of troops, mainly from the Army, in that region.[3] In addition, the Brazilian State has bodies responsible for protecting the environment through inspections and the promotion of sustainable development. In this context of environmental protection, the Brazilian government launched Operation Green Brazil between 2019 and 2021.[4] This operation was carried out in an interagency environment and had the participation of several environmental institutions, public security organs and the Armed Forces of Brazil.

In this sense, this article describes the use of the Brazilian Armed Forces in the context of Operation Green Brazil in order to verify whether this use allowed to improve the capacities of public agencies in the fight against environmental crimes in the Brazilian Amazon. To this end, the characterization of the environmental problem of the Brazilian Amazon will be carried out, the regulatory review related to the Law-and-Order Guarantee operations in Brazil, as well as the description of the actions and results of the Green Brazil Operations.

Brazilian Amazon

Brazil has an estimated population of 213 million inhabitants and about 8.5 million km2 of extension, being the fifth largest country in the world.[5] Likewise, Brazil is considered the main Amazonian country for hosting most of this terrestrial biome in its territory. The Amazon biome, with about 7 million km2, covers the largest tropical forest in the world and extends over the territory of nine South American countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana (France), Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.[6]

In 1953, the Brazilian government created the region called “Legal Amazon” with the aim of promoting the development of this area. This region covers the territory of nine Brazilian states and has a population of around 28 million inhabitants, with a population density of 5.6 inhabitants per km2, well below the Brazilian average of 22.4 inhabitants per km2. In this way, 60 % of the Brazilian territory is occupied by only 13 % of its population.[7]

One of the most striking characteristics of the Amazon is the great biodiversity that exists in this terrestrial biome. Studies estimate that there are more than 30 million animal species in the region, many of which have not yet been found and catalogued.[8] In this way, the Amazon has great potential to discover and exploit. In addition to the fauna, the region also has an exuberant and varied flora, which is formed by species of high commercial value, such as mahogany.[9] Likewise, the Amazon has one of the highest rainfall rates in the world, which generates a large availability of water. It is estimated that about 20 % of all the fresh water of the planet’s rivers is present in this region, and that 80 % of the country’s fresh water is found in the Amazon.[10]

Another aspect that contributes to the Amazon being recognized as an important water reserve is the presence of the Alter do Chão Aquifer, which is considered the largest on the planet, with approximately 86 thousand km3 of water distributed over an area of 400 thousand km2, being entirely in the Brazilian Amazon. The aforementioned aquifer has much of its composition outdoors, in addition to being located in an area of low population density, which facilitates its exploration.[11]

All this wealth attracts economic interests from different sectors and actors, both nationally and internationally. This greed – many times – leads to an unbridled and unsustainable exploitation that generates various environmental crimes that compromise the ecological balance of the terrestrial biome. Among the main environmental crimes that occur in the Brazilian Amazon, the following stand out: (1) illegal logging, characterized by the selective felling of trees of great commercial value (such as ipés and chestnut trees) for subsequent commercialization in the national and international market. This type of extraction violates current legislation, being one of the main factors of deforestation in the area; (2) illegal mining, mainly of gold, which generally occurs in environmental protection areas or indigenous reserves, without respecting current regulations and with little concern for environmental impacts; and (3) agriculture and livestock with environmental liabilities, through the unauthorized use of forest areas, using illegal burning of the forest to create pasture zones.[12]

Taking as a reference the occurrence of environmental crimes and based on the securitization theory of the Copenhagen School, international actors seek to establish a process of securitization of the preservation of the Amazon. This process occurs when a reference object (e.g. the environment) is treated by a “securitizing agent” as if it were under threat. In this way, this agent begins to demand extraordinary measures, such as the use of force, to face the alleged threat.[13] At the end of this process, the matter goes to a politicized level and is dealt with by the highest levels of government.

The statement by former French President François Mitterrand, referring that Brazil should accept relative sovereignty over the Amazon, is a clear example of discourse with a securitizing bias on the part of international authorities. Another example is the statement of French President Emannuel Macron, who stated that the fires that occurred in the Amazon in 2019 should be considered an international crisis, suggesting that the matter be addressed at the summit of the G7 member countries; that is, without the presence of Brazilian representatives.

Added to these discourses is the international narrative that the Amazon is the “lung of the world,” being responsible for producing much of the planet’s oxygen. The Amazon certainly plays an important role in the context of ecological balance, but scientific studies have shown that most oxygen is produced in the seas, through phytoplankton. Scientists have also shown that the forest itself consumes much of the oxygen it produces, not supplying it to other parts of the world.[14]

In this way, the securitization of the environment, environmental crimes and the difficulty of the State to establish its presence in an area of dense jungle and demographic emptiness increase the challenge of implementing environmental protection actions. In this context, a model adopted by the Brazilian government was the execution of an operation with an interagency approach to combat environmental crimes in the Brazilian Amazon: Operation Green Brazil, which was carried out between 2019 and 2021.

Law and Order Guarantee Operations in Brazil

According to Article 142 of the Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil, “the Brazilian Armed Forces are constituted by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, and have as their objective the defense of the Homeland, guarantee the constitutional powers and, on the initiative of any of these, law and order.”[15] Law and Order Guarantee Operations are military operations carried out by the Armed Forces of Brazil with specific characteristics, such as the fact of being conducted episodically, in a pre-established area and for a limited time. The use of the Armed Forces in this context is the exclusive competence of the President of the Republic.[16]

In addition, Article 16-A of Supplementary Act No. 97 of 9 June 1999, which deals with the use of the Armed Forces, establishes that these institutions may exercise subsidiary powers acting in the border strip, through preventive or repressive actions, against cross-border and environmental crimes, and may act alone or in coordination with other agencies. through Interagency Operations.[17] In this regard, the use of the term interagency is recent in Brazil, being more used in the military field, since the 2010s, in the manuals of the Armed Forces. Aa. Interagency operations are therefore defined as the relationship between the Armed Forces. AA. and other agencies, all in order to reconcile interests and efforts in the achievement of common goals. In this way, duplication of actions and the dispersion of resources are avoided, contributing to the formulation of effective and lower-cost solutions.[18]

Operation Green Brazil

Operation Green Brazil has been executed twice. The first was held from August 24 to October 24, 2019, and was authorized by Presidential Decree No. 9. 985/2019.[19] In this operation, members of the Armed Forces were employed in coordination with the environmental control and public safety agencies, in an interagency environment, characterized as an Operation of Guarantee of Law and Environmental Order. This first version of the operation aimed to combat environmental crimes with a focus on identifying and combating forest fires occurring in the Brazilian Amazon at that time, being widely disseminated by the international media, with a securitization bias on the subject.

The second operation, Green Brazil 2, had a broader scope and was authorized through Decree No. 10,341/2020 of May 6, 2020. Initially, it was planned to run from May 11 to June 10, 2020. However, it went through several extensions, extending until April 31, 2021, with the permanent participation of the Navy, Army and Air Force, in coordination with various environmental and public security bodies and agencies, among which are: the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA),[20] the Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity (ICMBio), the Federal Police (PF), the Federal Highway Police (PRF), the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN), the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), and the National Public Security Force (FNSP). This operation aimed to carry out preventive and repressive actions against various environmental crimes, focused on reducing illegal deforestation and fighting forest fires in border areas, indigenous lands and federal environmental conservation units in the Brazilian Legal Amazon. All this with the aim of contributing to the environmental preservation of that region and the positive perception of the country nationally and internationally.[21]

For the execution of this operation, three Joint Commands were formed with headquarters in the cities of Manaus, Belém and Campo Grande. These commands employed approximately 2,000 soldiers per day. Throughout the entire operation, around 700 vehicles, 120 vessels and 16 helicopters were used (accumulating more than 3,000 flight hours).[22] All these resources of the FF. AA. allowed to materialize – with greater speed – the presence of the State in different areas of the Legal Amazon, contributing significantly to a broader action of the agents of environmental control.

In this way, Operations Green Brazil 1 and 2 were conceived with the objective of integrating efforts and coordinating actions among the Armed Forces and other agencies, especially those with environmental oversight responsibilities. In this sense, the FF. AA., particularly the Brazilian Army, conducted security actions for inspection teams, established checkpoints on land and waterways, conducted aerial reconnaissance of deforestation areas, fought fires, and provided valuable intelligence support.

Additionally, the logistical support provided by the Army was fundamental for the success and effectiveness of the actions carried out by IBAMA and ICMBio to control and combat environmental crimes. The logistical capacity of military organizations and their geographical distribution in the Legal Amazon allowed the deployment of several forward bases that contributed – significantly – to optimizing the work of environmental agencies. For example, the installation of an Army base, near the municipality of Uruará, in the state of Pará, allowed IBAMA to inspect 32 sawmills in that municipality. This base provided the necessary support to carry out the planning, security, accommodation and food of more than 250 people, including military, environmental inspection agents and public security agents during more than two months of actions in the area.

As tangible results, in Operation Green Brazil 1, during its two months of duration, nearly 1,900 fires were fought, and more than 23,000 cubic meters of wood and 26,000 liters of fuel were seized. In addition, 127 people were arrested and fines totaling more than 141 million reais[23] (approximately $27 million) were imposed. Similarly, Operation Green Brazil 2 obtained more significant results, due to the longer duration and breadth of focus on environmental crimes. In this operation, 337 arrests were made, more than 500,000 cubic meters of wood, 990 vehicles (including tractors), 1,137 mining and sawmill machinery, 374 barges and mining accessories and 20 aircraft were seized. Environmental agencies imposed more than 3.3 billion reais in fines (approximately $632 million). In addition, a 15 % reduction in deforestation was observed in the period from August 2020 to April 2021.[24] The total cost of the two operations was around 400 million reais (approximately 76.7 million dollars).[25]


Operations Green Brazil were an innovative way to use the means of the Brazilian State to combat environmental crimes in the area of the Legal Amazon. In this way, Brazil demonstrated its concern and commitment to the preservation and protection of the Amazonian terrestrial biome, integrating the diverse capacities of national power in favor of this objective. Likewise, the Guarantee of Law and Environmental Order allowed the Armed Forces to coordinate efforts with environmental agencies to enhance their actions and increase the effectiveness of the control and fight against environmental crimes. Several characteristics of the FF. AA., especially the Army, as well as the great knowledge of the area and the ability to deploy logistics areas providing advanced and efficient support to field teams, were fundamental to obtain significant results in the fight against environmental crimes. It should be noted that the fines imposed exceeded the total value of the transactions by more than eight times.

The coordinated use of members of the Armed Forces with members of environmental and public security organizations allowed greater integration among those involved, in addition to increasing the training of the teams, facilitating future actions and allowing significant results to be achieved in the fight against environmental crimes. In this sense, the execution of Operations Green Brazil is presented as an innovative way to execute interagency operations in the context of environmental protection and preservation of the Amazon, maintaining the sustainability and biodiversity of this important terrestrial biome. In addition, it supports national sovereignty by opposing discourses with a securitizing bias on issues of protection of the Amazon. Finally, Operation Green Brazil proved to be an effective and easy to replicate model, and joint actions can be carried out among the Amazon countries, through agreements that seek to combat threats to the Amazon.


  1. Gustavo Daniel Coutinho Nascimento, et al, “A Operação Verde Brasil I e II no processo de securitização ambiental da Amazônia”, A National Defense (January-April 2021), (accessed May 10, 2022).
  2. Marcelo Teixeira Emídio de Andrade, “A atuação do Batalhão de Infantaria de Selva (BIS) na defesa e desenvolvimento da Amazônia Brasileira no século XXI”, Escola de Comando e Estado-Maior do Exército (Rio de Janeiro: 2020), (accessed May 10, 2022).
  3. Fábio Carballo de Souza, “Agenda ambiental: o Exército Brasileiro na Amazônia”, Escola de Comando e Estado-Maior do Exército (Rio de Janeiro: 2020), (accessed May 18, 2022).
  4. Presidência da República, “Decree No. 9.985” que autoriza o emprego das Forças Armadas para a Garantia da Lei e da Ordem e para ações subsidiárias nas áreas de fronteira, nas terras indígenas, em unidades federais de conservação ambiental e em outras áreas da Amazônia Legal na hipótese de requerimento do Governador do respectivo Estado (August 23, 2019) (accessed May 10, 2022); Presidência da República, “Decree No. 10.341” que autoriza o emprego das Forças Armadas na Garantia da Lei e da Ordem e em ações subsidiárias na faixa de fronteira, nas terras indígenas, nas unidades federais de conservação ambiental e em outras áreas federais nos Estados da Amazônia Legal (May 6, 2020) (accessed May 9, 2022).
  5. IBGE, “Cidade e Estados”, Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (2022), (accessed May 9, 2022).
  6. Marcelo Teixeira Emídio de Andrade, “A atuação do Batalhão de Infantaria de Selva …”.
  7. IBGE, “Amazônia Legal”, Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (2022), (accessed May 9, 2022).
  8. EMBRAPA, “Amazon”, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (2022), (accessed July 2, 2022).
  9. Ibid.
  10. Renato Cosme dos Santos Pita, et al, “Sistema aquífero Alter do Chão a oeste da cidade de Manaus (AM): processos hidrogeoquímica, origem da salinidade e relações com aquíferos adjacentes”, Revista do Instituto de Geociências – USP (March 18, 2018), (accessed July 2, 2022).
  11. Dayane Borges, “Aquifero Alter do Chão – O que é, localização, características e importância”, Scientific Cohesion (2022), (accessed July 2, 2022).
  12. Laura Trajber Waisbich, et al, “O Ecossistema do Environmental Crime na Amazônia: uma análise das economias ilícitas da floresta” Igarapé Institute (February 2022) (accessed July 2, 2022).
  13. Luciana Mendes Barbosa and Matilde de Souza, “Securitização das mudanças climáticas: o papel da União Europeia” International Context (January-June 2010) (accessed July 2, 2022).
  14. EMBRAPA, “Amazônia”, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária.
  15. Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil de 1988, “Article 142”, Presidência da República (October 5, 1988), (accessed August 20, 2022).
  16. Command de Operações Terrestres, “EB70-MC-10.223 – Operações”, Ministério da Defesa (2017)ções (accessed August 5, 2022).
  17. Presidência da Republic, “Lei Complement Nº 97” that dispõe sobre as normas gerais para a organização, o preparo e o emprego das Forças Armadas, Subchefia for Legal Assumptions (June 9, 1999)), (accessed July 2, 2022).
  18. Comando de Operações Terrestres, “EB70-MC-10.248 – Operações Interagências”, Ministério da Defesa (2020)ções_InteragênciasPDF.pdf (accessed July 16, 2022).
  19. Governo do Brasil, “A Defesa – Proteção e Benefícios para a Sociedade”, Ministério da Defesa (November 2021) (accessed August 5, 2022).
  20. Presidência da República, “Lei No. 7.735″, that dispõe sobre a extinção de órgão e de entidade autárquica, cria o Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis e dá outras providências (February 22, 1989) (accessed August 5, 2022).
  21. Exército Brasileiro, “Relatório de Gestão do Comando do Exército 2021”, State-Maior do Exército – Exército Brasileiro (March 2022) (accessed August 5, 2022).
  22. Ibid.
  23. Governo do Brasil, “GLO History”, Ministério da Defesa (January 31, 2022) (accessed August 5, 2022).
  24. Ibid.
  25. Governo do Brasil, “Efetivos e Custos de GLO 2010-2022”, Ministério da Defesa (January 31, 2022), (accessed August 5, 2022).


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The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP