Immersed in the crisis, Peru neglects the destruction of the Amazon

RIA DE JANEIRA (AP) – Peru is in one of the worst political crises in its history and defense …

RIA DE JANEIRA (AP) – Peru has found itself in one of the worst political crises in its history, and protecting its Amazon rainforest is not working, according to a report released Thursday. Peru is home to the second largest part of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil. The country has promised to stop deforestation by 2021.

The South American country has been mired in political turmoil since 2016. Corruption scandals and disputes between the executive and the legislature have led to an intense change – four presidents in five years. The current president of Peru, left-wing outsider Pedro Castillo, has already experienced two attempts at impeachment since taking office in July 2021.

The Peruvian Amazon is huge – larger than Ukraine, about 68 million hectares (168 million hectares). Here is the upper reaches of the Amazon River, as well as the Manu National Park, one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. It is a transitional zone between the Andes and the lowlands of tropical forests, rich in microclimate and ecology.

But the Andean Amazon Monitoring Project (MAAP), an initiative of the Amazon Nonprofit Nature Conservation Association, reports that deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon has reached six historic highs in the last ten years. The analysis is based on data from the University of Maryland, which has been recording since 2002.

The worst year was 2020, when Peru lost about 170,000 hectares (420,000 acres) of the Amazon rainforest. Last year, that figure dropped, but still ranks sixth in history. Official Peru data, which only applies to 2020, agree.

Corrupt entities benefiting from environmental crimes, along with the political crisis, have led to the government’s inability to fight environmental crime, the report said. “Moreover, the Peruvian government continues to prioritize economic development over the protection of the Amazon rainforest.” The Igarape Institute commissioned a report from InSight Crime, a nonprofit organization investigating crimes in Latin America.

As in the Amazon in Brazil, livestock and agriculture are major factors in deforestation. Agribusiness companies and poor migrants from other parts of Peru are illegally seizing land. Other illegal activities that damage forests include gold mining, logging and coca plantations.

“Agriculture is now firmly entrenched,” said MAAP Director Matt Feiner, a leading deforestation factor concentrated in central and southern Peru’s Amazon. “This includes both widespread small-scale agriculture and recent large-scale activities with new Mennonite colonies.”

The report, entitled “The Roots of Environmental Crime in the Peruvian Amazon,” identifies three entities behind deforestation: big business, such as palm oil companies; entrepreneurial criminal networks that profit from the trade in timber, land or drugs, as well as cheap labor – low-paid workers who cut down trees and plant coca.

The products of this illegal activity end up in other parts of the world. Most of the gold exports go to Switzerland, the United States, India and Canada. Peru’s domestic market absorbs most of the timber; what is exported goes mainly to China. About 28 percent of gold mining in Peru is illegal, according to an InsightCrime investigation, which also believes that much of the timber mining is conducted without permits.

“The political crisis has distracted us a lot from environmental issues,” said former Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal in an interview with The Associated Press in Rio de Janeiro on the sidelines of a climate change meeting hosted by the Brazilian Center for International Relations, think tank. . The pandemic and war in Ukraine have exacerbated these problems, he said.

The current government is also promoting activities such as illegal mining and illegal logging, he said. The former minister linked it to the deaths of many environmentalists without criminal prosecution.

The Peruvian Ministry of Environment, which contacted by phone and e-mail on Monday, did not respond to requests for comment on the current situation in the Amazon.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and a huge carbon sink. There is widespread concern that its destruction will not only release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, further complicating hopes of slowing climate change, but also pushing it to a turning point after which most forests will begin an irreversible process of degradation. into the tropical savannah.

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