LIMA – Illegal logging is the source of more than 40 percent of mahogany and cedar that Peru exports to the United States, and is behind the death of those who oppose that sector of the lumber industry, such as the four Indian leaders murdered in early September by suspected illegal loggers, environmentalists said.
The Peruvian government has not done enough to stop illegal logging, the program director in Peru of the Environmental Research Agency (EIA), Julia Urrunaga, and the attorney for the forestry program of the Peruvian Environmental Law Society (SPDA), Jean Pierre Araujo, said in a press conference.
The government is perfectly capable of determining which timber is being shipped from the country illegally if it reviews ships’ cargo records and compares them with the place of the timber concession, “because at times the wood is not from the trees declared, which could still be standing,” Urrunaga said.
Edwin Chota and another three leaders of the Ashaninkas Indian community of Alto Tamaya-Saweto in the Ucayali region, were murdered Sept. 1 by suspected illegal loggers.
The Indian leaders had previously reported threats without anything being done about it, the Ombudsman’s Office said.
“Operation Amazonas,” carried out this year by Interpol and the World Customs Organization (WCO), in just three months was able to seize 15,000 cubic meters (528,000 cubic feet) of illegal wood, enough to fill six Olympic swimming pools,” and whose value was $20.6 million, Urrunaga said.
Araujo, for his part, said the figures are even more alarming for other kinds of wood that are not declared, particularly ironwood, “sold for floors on the Chinese market.”
The volume of the business does not constitute even 1 percent of Peru’s gross domestic product (GDP) and “apparently does not justify so much corruption” were it not for the fact that illegal logging is sometimes “accompanied by other illicit activities like drug trafficking,” Araujo said.