National Geographic Brazil publishes Historias Sin Fronteras environmental investigation

Photos by Lalo de Almeida/Folhapress

National Geographic Brazil publishes Historias Sin Fronteras environmental investigation

National Geographic Brazil has published our cross-border environmental investigation on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s plans to build an international highway that will cut through the most biodiverse region in the Amazon and divide the territories of 10 indigenous communities in Peru and become a bridge for illegal activities of loggers and drug traffickers.

The investigation was conducted by Fabiano Maisonnave, Amazon correspondent for Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo, and by Alexa Vélez, editor of Mongabay Latam, and Mongabay reporter Vanessa Romo in Peru as part of our Historias Sin Fronteras initiative.  With the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Department of Science Education, InquireFirst launched the Historias Sin Fronteras cross-border science journalism grants program in Latin America last year.

To tell the visual story, photojournalist Lalo de Almeida traveled with Maisonnave to the Amazon to capture the breathtaking beauty of the untouched region and record the lives of indigenous people who live on the banks of the Moa River.  In 2021, de Almeida was named Ibero-American photographer of the year by Picture of the Year (POY) LatAm.

In Peru, photojournalist Sebastián Castañeda took readers to four indigenous communities in the Amazon that are terrorized by drug traffickers who have taken control of the territory.

Maisonnave and de Almeida sailed for more than 16 hours along the Moa River to reach Brazil’s Serra do Divisor National Park and meet with indigenous communities living in and around the park.

On the Peruvian side, Romo and Castañeda traveled along the Abujao River to visit four indigenous communities that live in fear of drug traffickers.

The journalists reported that the highway project is being proposed under the pretext of economic development.

But the project inevitably evokes the ghost of the Interoceanic Highway, a costly road built by the Brazilian company Odebrecht, which was supposed to stimulate commerce between Brazil and Peru and which ended up being investigated for mismanagement and which resulted in the loss of almost 500,000 acres of forests.

Why build a highway in the middle of the Amazon if everything indicates it will result in deforestation, drug trafficking, loss of biodiversity and illegal mining?

Despite all the questions, the project continues. On May 6, two weeks after Historias Sin Fronteras published the cross-border project, the Bolsonaro government renewed its promise to build the international highway.

During the inauguration of a bridge over the Madeira River, where Bolsonaro was greeted by a few thousand supporters, Minister of Infrastructure Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas told the crowd that the Brazil-Peru highway project is one of the government’s infrastructure priorities.

But money, for the time being, does not exist. Senator Márcio Bittar included $8 million in this year’s federal budget for “studies and projects” to expand the highway, but Bolsonaro vetoed the expense amid cuts to balance the budget during the pandemic.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation and provide you with updates.

Our thanks to National Geographic Brasil for publishing our Amazon project and to HHMI’s Department of Science Education for supporting our cross-border journalism on the health and environmental challenges facing Latin America.

Thanks to our Sponsor

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InquireFirst-HFPA Grant


2022 symposiums

Photo by Shutterstock

Voces Emergentes Paraguay

Investigative Journalism
for the Next Generation of Latin American Reporters

April 18-May 27, 2022

The university journalism students and early-career journalists selected for this program will work in teams to produce unique and relevant multimedia projects. The subjects of their projects will focus on some of the most urgent problems confronting people in Paraguay.

The students and journalists will be guided by our team of experienced editors as they report and write an in-depth investigative project, as well as producing multimedia elements such as photo slideshows, interactive graphics, audio and videos. They will work with their editors to ensure that they handle their subjects with sensitivity, with accurate and careful reporting, and above all, with the highest standards of journalistic ethics and professionalism.

At the conclusion of the six-week program, the projects will be published on our website,

The Power of Cross-Border
Science Journalism

World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ)

Medellín, Colombia

June 27, 2022

On the inaugural day of the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) in Medellín, Colombia, InquireFirst will conduct its first in-person journalism workshop since the Covid pandemic began in February 2020.

During this workshop, which focuses on the power of cross-border science, health and the environmental reporting, we will meet with up to 75 Spanish-speaking science journalists to talk about ways that they can launch their own cross-border initiatives.

We’ll talk about the positive results of our InquireFirst cross-border reporting initiative, Historias Sin Fronteras, which has published six in-depth, collaborative projects since its launch at the 2019 World Conference of Science Journalists in Lausanne, Switzerland. The centerpiece of our day-long workshop in Medellín will be a pitch session by teams of journalists seeking a cross-border science grant offered by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which has funded Historias Sin Fronteras since its launch three years ago. The winning team will be announced at the WCSJ.

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Check out our science, health, environmental
and investigative reporting grants for Latin American journalists


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Your contribution will provide reporting grants and professional training for Latin American journalists who are covering Covid-19 and the climate change and environmental issues that are devastating their region.
You are also supporting investigative journalists as they probe sensitive issues that affect the stability of their countries.

Here are examples of how your contribution will make an impact:


Provides books and materials fora journalist during our training program


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Pays for a journalist’s international travel to our week-long training program


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We thank those who have supported us over the years:

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We are grateful to our founding donor, Cheryl Clark, a journalist and long-time San Diego resident, for the generous gift that allowed InquireFirst to put into place the infrastructure necessary to get our nonprofit started.

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We thank the husband-wife design team of Kris and Deb Lindblad for their pro bono work on our promotional materials.

A special thanks to Anthony S. Da Vigo, a California attorney who is committed to improving the lives of Latin Americans, for his significant contribution which allowed InquireFirst to launch its investigative journalism project, Bajo la Lupa.

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