Rough Justice

Illegal diamonds are the prize. But death in the Amazon rainforest is the price, as Indians, Brazilian miners, and a mysterious third party fight over the richest deposit in South America.
Night falls early in the Amazon. Through the darkness, the headlights of my little white rental car trace the outline of elaborate marble tombs. Close in front of me, the beams illuminate a solitary row of wooden crosses, the names stencilled on in black. Fifteen of the graves have only numbers.

This is the last earthly resting place of twenty-nine diamond miners, killed on April 7, 2004, by warriors of the Cinta Larga Indian tribe. Nearby, I see a wooden plaque on which someone has inscribed a miner’s epitaph:

In the game of life we all place wagers.
Of all that I had, I bet the most
important — life — and lost . . . .
I won the most valuable of all rewards —
the kingdom of God.


“Did you know them?” I ask our guide.

He nods. “Some of them were my friends. They were killed brutally.”

“Do you blame the Indians?”

“No. Not the Indians. They’ve been manipulated by some third. Someone who wants the diamonds to himself.”

He pauses. “For myself, I want to know who this third is.”

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