About-turn on deforestation watchdog following US trade delegation visit

12 May 2019

As we reported briefly at the end of April, OSINFOR, arguably Peru’s only effective regulator against the country’s endemic timber trafficking, is returning to its original status. Its accommodation at the Ministry of Environment (Minam) has thus proved only temporary. It returns only six months after its demotion from its more influential position within the presidency of the Council of Ministers.

The US government, which has invested heavily in OSINFOR’s effectiveness, regarded its relegation to a subordinate ministry as a breach of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, since it amounted to a loss of autonomy. Stemming the trafficking of protected Amazonian hardwoods is a commercial as well as an environmental issue for the United States, where the domestic timber industry can be vocal about the supposedly unfair competition it represents.

Conservationists everywhere are welcoming the restitution of OSINFOR to a position where it can hold to account a rapacious and increasingly criminal extractive industry which for too long has made a mockery of controls.

According to estimates, between 60% and 80% of felled timber in the rainforest contravenes strict regulations including species, age and origin (e.g. national parks, indigenous territories).

OSINFOR’s method of assigning individual GPS ‘passports’ to legally harvestable trees, accompanied by on-site inspection with teeth (teams include public prosecutors), has made a promising start in cleaning up what has long since become a racket (with loss of indigenous environmental defenders’ lives) rather than an industry.

A positive outcome of OSINFOR’s return to base would be progressive expansion of its current coverage of 40% over the three regions where timber extraction thrives: Loreto, Madre de Dios and Ucayali.

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