Home » today » World » Amazon rainforest suffers from narco-deforestation | The standard

Amazon rainforest suffers from narco-deforestation | The standard

When it comes to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and other tropical rainforests in South and Central America, cocaine production is not often mentioned as a cause. But while drug production does not play as big a role as logging, ranching and mining, its share is also worrying. For years, forests have been cleared in many places to build coca plantations and clandestine airstrips for sports planes. Drug labs also dump a lot of chemical junk into the rivers.

These forms of destruction remained underexposed for a long time, because in the difficult and expensive war on drugs, the impact of narco-terror on the rainforest was not a priority for governments. In 2024, reality is starting to look different: NGOs, governments and international institutions are raising the alarm about the damage caused by drug criminals.

Park rangers murdered

A brand new report from the investigative journalism consortium Insight Crime shows that the global demand for cocaine has increased so much that drug traffickers in Bolivia – the third largest producer in the world after Colombia and Peru – have today started raiding the Madidi and Noel Kempf national parks. . The Carrasco and Amboró parks have also fallen prey to drug-related overexploitation.

Not only are the trees falling, the indigenous population and the people who try to protect the parks are also at risk of being killed. Twenty park rangers have been murdered in Peru since 2020. On April 19, Peruvian indigenous park ranger Victorio Daribeque Gerawairey was ambushed in the protected Amarakaeri Territory, in the Amazon rainforest. Gerawarey was met by four men who shot him in the chest. A son of the park ranger survived the shooting, but a bystander who rushed to his aid did not. Most likely they became victims of a drug gang. Gerawairey had already been threatened several times by gangs, says the indigenous development organization Aidesep.

Intimidation, pressure and threats from drug traffickers are also a growing problem in Central America, for example in the large Mayan Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. Clandestine landing strips for Cessna aircraft have also been discovered there. Similar trends are emerging in the forested regions of Mexico.

Forced labour

Earlier this year, the United Nations, through the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), warned about ‘narco-deforestation’ in parts of South and Central America. “These practices pose deadly risks to the indigenous population and result in bribery, extortion, fraud, sexual violence, aggression and forced labor,” writes the INCB, which also noted that the areas under coca bushes are increasing. In Peru, 18 percent were added in one year, and in Colombia 13 percent.

The growth in the latter country has a special explanation. For decades, the activities of the Farc guerrilla formed a paradoxical buffer against deforestation. The demobilization of the left-wing guerrilla in 2016 led to a power vacuum in Colombia that dissident groups and drug organizations jumped into, with the result that biodiverse forestland is now giving way to coca cultivation.

In Bolivia, it is mainly foreign organizations that contribute to deforestation and pollution, according to the journalists from Insight Crime. “Until now, Bolivian cultivation was mainly in the hands of small family clans,” says investigative journalist Iván Paredes. “But under pressure from major Brazilian players such as Comando Vermelho from Rio de Janeiro and Primeiro Comando Capital from São Paulo, narco-deforestation is increasing.” There were also no drug labs in Bolivia before, but now the end product is made in the country itself with Colombian technology.

According to Paredes, the authorities in his country are becoming increasingly aware of the share of drug criminals in deforestation. “The government recently promised to remove all illegal plantations in the national parks this year. But we still have to see if that works.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.