Loggers move tree trunks down the Putaya River in Peru

A new investigation by the Associated Press has shed additional light on how corruption and lack of political will act as prime drivers of Peru's lucrative illegal logging trade, with detrimental impacts on both security and the environment.

Illegal logging might be thriving again in Peru, a country that is home to the world's second-largest portion of the Amazon after Brazil, an April 19 report by the Associated Press has shown.

Despite efforts to combat the crime, an estimated 600 square miles of forest are logged illegally in Peru every year, the AP reported.

Corruption is a key contributing factor. For years, forestry officials have produced documents to falsify the origins of illegally harvested wood. Forest service spokeswoman Lissete Herrera told the Associated Press that one in seven of the more than 150 officials currently licensed to sign such permits is being investigated.

Lack of enforcement capacity and political will are also crucial drivers. To date, there have been no convictions under a 2015 anti-illegal logging law that established an eight-year maximum prison sentence for those convicted of the crime, the AP reported.

The AP also reported that Rolando Navarro, the former chief of Peru's forest inspection service who had led several important operations against illegal logging, was fired in January 2016 by former President Ollanta Humala. Shortly thereafter, Navarro fled to the United States after receiving death threats. Peruvian officials reportedly described his dismissal as motivated by the need for a "fresh face."

Things have not looked brighter under current President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Upon assuming office, Kuczynski dissolved the office of the illegal logging czar, while efforts to develop a GPS tree-identification system and create a drone inspection fleet have stalled.

An estimated 80 percent of timber exports from Peru are illegal, according to a joint study by the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Forest (Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana - AIDESEP) and the Forest Peoples Programme.

InSight Crime Analysis

To be sure, illicit logging is not the only criminal activity posing threats to both Peru's environment and the country's security. Authorities have also struggled to contain illegal mining and the drug trade. But illegal logging is particularly profitable for crime groups.

In fact, a recent report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI) found illegal logging to be the most profitable natural resource crime, and estimated the illicit industry generates between $52 and $157 billion in annual revenues. The reason for its profitability is that it is very cost effective. Loggers, who are usually members of indigenous communities, earn about $70 per cubic meter of Peruvian mahogany, according to GFI. But as the wood travels along the supply chain, exporters earn $1,804 per cubic feet -- a 2,477 percent increase when compared to the illegal logger's revenues -- while importers earn $3,170 per cubic meter, an exorbitant 5,200 percent increase.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Eco Trafficking

Illegal logging has also been linked to violence. Poor illegal loggers are often just pawns in the lumber trade, and those who attempt to fight against criminal groups do so at their own risk -- as the murder of four indigenous men allegedly by the hands of illegal loggers in September 2014 showed. 

In addition to threatening the environment and security, illegal logging also poses serious challenges for Peru's economy. During the past two years, the Associated Press reported, the country's logging industry lost an estimated $140 million in sales due bad publicity surrounding illegal logging.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...