Peru Admits Timber Certificates Faked in Secret Cable

This, from Survival International:

Peru’s government has secretly admitted that 70-90% of its mahogany exports were illegally felled, according to a US embassy cable revealed by Wikileaks.

Furthermore, Peru’s government is aware that the illegal timber is being ‘laundered’ using ‘document falsification, timber extraction outside the concession boundaries and links to bribes’.

The revelation will embarrass several US DIY stores, who have all admitted to Survival that they continue to import Amazonian hardwoods. Home Depot, Lowe’s and Lumber Liquidators have all confirmed they use the timber in their products.

Then-US ambassador to Peru James Struble quoted ‘unofficial INRENA estimates’ in the 2006 cable. (INRENA was the government’s Natural Resources Institute). The ambassador’s comments paint a damning picture of Peru’s forestry mismanagement. According to the cable, the US imported 88% of Peru’s mahogany exports in 2005, highlighting its significant role in the country’s extensive illegal logging trade. The majority of Peru’s endangered mahogany remains destined for US shores today.

The news comes just weeks after illegal logging in Peru made international headlines after it emerged that loggers have infiltrated protected areas inhabited by uncontacted tribes, forcing them to flee across the border into Brazil.

The loggers pose a grave threat to uncontacted Murunahua Indians who could be wiped out by diseases brought by outsiders or face inter-tribal warfare if they are pushed off their lands.

Survival is urging the Peruvian government to ensure that the Murunahua’s land is properly protected.

Survival’s Director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The ambassador’s cable shows the alarming extent to which the authorities were aware of illegal logging in Peru, did not admit it, and did little to stop it. It beggars belief that five years on we are still seeing systematic illegal logging and a complete failure to safeguard land inhabited by vulnerable tribes. Consumers in the US and Europe simply can’t rely on documents that purport to show Peruvian mahogany is sustainably sourced, as these are clearly not worth the paper they’re written on.’

Notes to Editors: The Murunahua reserve lies just across the border from where the Brazilian uncontacted Indians were photographed recently. It is home to an unknown number of uncontacted Murunahua Indians. Some Murunahua individuals, however, have been contacted in recent years and live outside the reserve.

Cable extract, from http://elcomercio.pe/wikileaks-peru/10:

id: 61359
date: 4/21/2006 14:51
refid: 06LIMA1534
origin: Embassy Lima
classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
destination: 06LIMA2444
header: VZCZCXYZ0001 RR RUEHWEB

UNCLAS LIMA 001534

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/AND, EPSC AND OES/ETC,ENV
BRASILIA FOR ESTH HUB – J STORY
USAID FOR LAC, EGAT
USTR FOR B HARMANN, M BURR
COMMERCE FOR M CAMERON
USDA/AS/FAA/BAILLEY AND USDA/FAS/ITP/FSTSD/BREHM

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV, ETRD, EINV, EAID, ECON, PGOV, SNAR, PE
SUBJECT: ILLEGAL LOGGING THRIVES IN PERU

REF: LIMA 2444

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Peru exports the most broad leaf mahogany
in the world, a majority of it to the U.S. Much of the
exports are likely from illegal logging, violating Peruvian
law and the CITES international convention against
trafficking in endangered species
. The GOP, NGO community
and Peruvian logging industry agree that illegal logging is
a problem. Post has identified serious deficiencies in GOP
regulator INRENA’s ability to police the logging industry,
formal and informal. The formal forest products industry,
concerned about legal challenges to mahogany exports,
appears interested in working to reduce illegal logging.
Post is exploring options such as applying for OES-I Qoject
funds and realigning USAID programming. END SUMMARY.

DIRE MAHOGANY SITUATION
———————————-
2. (U) Peru now is the world’s largest exporter of broad
leaf mahogany, according to thQatest report of the
International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). Brazil
reportedly no longer allows legal export of broad leaf
mahogany, and the Bolivian government is reducing legal
exports due to its declining stocks. Legal exports of
Peruvian mahogany have declined steadily since, according to
the 2005 report of the GOP’s natural resources monitoring
and enforcement agency, INRENA. Since 2002, the agency’s
estimate of illicit exported mahogany has been 60,000 cubic
meters per year. Broad leaf mahogany continues as an
endangered species under Appendix II of the International
Convention against Trafficking in Endangered Species
(CITES). The high selective extraction of reproducing
trees, the slow reproduction rate of wild mahogany, and the
inability so far of silviculturalists to develop healthy
mahogany plantations have combined to cause a steady decline
in mahogany stocks.

PROBLEMS WITH MAHOGANY BUYERS AND SELLERS
————————————————————-
3. (U) Ten firms with INRENA permits account for over 85
percent of Peru’s mahogany exports. The United States
continues to be by far the largest importer of mahogany
importing 88 percent of Peru’s total 2005 mahogany exports.
Unofficial INRENA estimates indicate that 70-90 percent of
all mahogany exported in 2005 originated from illegal
sources.

4. (SBU) INRENA’s current verification process, implemented
as a result of USAID support, is confirming that mahogany is
being harvested not from the commercial concessions but from
protected areas (where commercial extraction is prohibited)
and from areas in indigenous territories different than
those specified in INRENA-approved logging plans.
INRENA
must approve all logging plans to extract mahogany legally
from commercial forestry concessions, indigenous community
lands, and agricultural land with remnant forests.

5. (SBU) Reliable INRENA sources and civil society groups
report that mahogany loggers exploit indigenous communities
by paying below-market prices.
The loggers also are
involved in forced labor, according to the International
Labor Organization (ILO). Moreover, commercial timber
extraction from forested remnants of agricultural land is
considered the most common system to launder illegal timber.
There is a long history of extracting mahogany from remnant
forests and the origin of the cut timber is hard to trace.

...

9. (SBU) At the last international CITES meeting, in
October 2005, INRENA presented a series of accomplishments
it claimed had been made in the fight against the illegal
cutting of mahogany. When the CITIES Commission lauded
Peru’s gains in the management of forest resources and
environmental governance, it also noted the fragility of
these gains. Highlighting future challenges, the Commission
identified the “increased powers” of an illicit forest
management cartel; the cartel’s strengthened linkages to
what it called the Coca Cartel; and the continued crisis in
institutional capacity. (Comment: Post does not believe
that there is either a single illicit logging cartel nor a
single coca cartel. End Comment.)


10. (SBU) At the CITES meeting, the GOP cited as an
accomplishment its computerized system to track mahogany
harvest, a system developed with USAID funding. Reliable
information indicates that data has consistently been mis-
entered or later altered at field locations,
allowing
concessionaires to cut more lumber than they are legally
permitted. Post has suspected corruption for many months
and has consistently informed INRENA of these concerns. A
few weeks ago, when the story appeared in the media, INRENA
claimed it would address this situation. Nothing has
changed to date.

11. (SBU) INRENA at the last CITES meeting announced that
it was re-structuring itself to ensure greater “separation
of powers” among INRENA’s management, forest supervision
department (OSINFOR), and its departments for protected
areas and species. More than five months since the meeting,
the new structure has yet to be implemented. Post now has
reason to believe that the gains the GOP claimed last
October were simply not true. (Comment: Ironically, the GOP
has agreed to host in Lima the next CITES meeting. GOP lead
host agency, INRENA, has asked USAID for funding support.
Peru’s lack of CITES compliance could become an issue. End
Comment.)

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One Response to Peru Admits Timber Certificates Faked in Secret Cable

  1. Pingback: Peru admits timber certificates faked in secret cable | Climate Connections

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