More for the Colombia file: 90% of environmental crime unpunished

As part of my ongoing effort to open gringo eyes to what they are getting into when they start touting or investing in South American miracles, here’s a decent story about environmental crime in Colombia.

I suppose the pro-government angle is that 10% of environmental crime is now getting punished. But punished is a relative thing. People who go and chop down big woods to build palm oil plantations? No problem: deforestation isn’t a crime in Colombia, according to this report from Radio Nacional Colombia. And among crimes prosecuted, the biggest punishment was a fine against a peasant cowherd for taking 31 head into a national park, and was hit with a $34,000 fine. A bit of translation:

…Deforestation, which in 50 years reduced Colombian forests from 75 million to 25 million hectares, isn’t considered a crime under Colombian law.

However, acts such as tree-cutting, pollution and trafficking in biological and genetic material are associated with the phenomenom. Environmental organizations consider big businesses, and not individuals, to be most responsible for damage to natural resources.

For these cases, the Autonomous Regional Corporations are considering sanctions that go beyond fines, such as the suspension of activities, including the total closure of the company that affects the environment,said Ricardo Botero.

Ana Filippini, a member of the International secretariat of the World Rainforest Movement, said that in Colombia as in the rest of Latin America, the forests are being destroyed with the approval of the governments, by permitting the operation of companies dedicated to mining and oil extraction…

(Continues here.)