An investigation published a few weeks ago by the Associated Press (AP) agency has indicated that in recent years, the Peruvian authorities have been responsible for obstacles in the efforts of the United States in the fight against illegal logging and timber trafficking. This, in the context of the obligation that our country maintains to guarantee the legal origin of wood, in compliance with the commitments agreed in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. in 2006.Follow @socie_ECpe
During 2015, a joint work between the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office on Environmental Matters (FEMA), the Forest Resources Supervision Agency (Osinfor) and the National Superintendency of Tax Administration (Sunat) -with the support of Interpol and the World Organization of Customs – managed to carry out different interventions and seizures of large volumes of illegal wood, in at least three export shipments from Peru to the United States and Mexico.
On November 24, 2015, within the framework of the so-called Operation Amazon, the authorities seized a shipment of wood valued at more than S / 1.6 million in the port of Iquitos, one of the largest seizures of wood made to date. according to Osinfor. At the date of the intervention, the authorities assured that 15% of this cargo (the third that had transported the Yacu Kallpa vessel in 2015) was illegal. Despite this, the wood left the country due to a lack of budget to download it. The cargo destinations were the ports of Tampico (Mexico) and Houston (United States).
During the following months, the Osinfor (the entity in charge of verifying in the forest if the wood comes from permitted areas) processed the information that the exporters gave to Sunat (which included the official declaration of the place of origin of the cargo) and, after verifying that the trees had not left the place they indicated as their origin, determined that the percentage of illicit wood shipped in the Yacu Kallpa was not 15% but reached more than 90% of the cargo.
Today, a report from the Ojo Público portal reported that on April 24, the head of the second civil court of Loreto, Sergio del Águila Salinas, admitted in first instance an appeal for protection presented by the company Sico Maderas (together with Inversiones La Oroza and Corporación Inforest MC SAC, owners of the wood seized in November 2015) in the Yacu Kallpa. In addition, the ruling orders the seizure of the Public Ministry contained in eight forest transport guides to be annulled and for the environmental prosecutor to pay the costs of the judicial process to the company.
The environmental prosecution yesterday appealed the court ruling, considering that the intervention made by the prosecutors was duly supported by the law, and that they managed to prove that the wood had been illegally extracted. According to El Comercio tax sources, the percentage that represents the volume of wood referred to in the first instance court decision is only 4% (386 cubic meters) of all cargo (9,651 cubic meters). They added that this sentence does not jeopardize the process that the authorities maintain for the millionaire seizure of the Yacu Kallpa.
“The ruling will not be executed until a higher instance has ruled on the appeal and wood will not be returned, the court has realized that it has made a fundamental error and they are waiting to correct it in the response to the appeal,” said a tax source from Iquitos.
-The role of the Mincetur-
The AP report refers to a letter sent by the then Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Magali Silva, to the former United States Trade Representative (USTR), Michael Froman, on February 29, 2016 (obtained by Proética) . By this date, Osinfor had sent reports to the relevant ministries on the origin of the wood of the three shipments sent to the Yacu Kallpa in 2015: the first in January, the second in September and the third in November 2015. All done in same boat: the Yacu Kallpa. All with high percentages of illegal wood.
Regarding the first shipment, Osinfor calculated that there was between 80% and 90% of illegal wood. As for the second, the US customs authorities stopped the wood and prevented it from entering Houston, Osinfor estimated a 90% presence of illegal wood. In the third shipment (also bound for Houston) that only reached the port of Tampico (Mexico), the institution estimated that 96% was illegal.
The Mincetur letter, sent three days after Michael Froman himself, asked the Peruvian government for information on the origin of the cargo of immobilized wood in Houston since January 20, 2015 (first shipment of the Yacu Kallpa) owned by the company Inversiones La Oroza. This, before the Osinfor report that indicated that the origin of much of the wood was illegal. In other words, the United States authorities requested explanations from the Mincetur, as the guarantor sector of the FTA, about information regarding the illegal origin of the cargo that the Peruvian authorities themselves alerted.
The contradictory occurs at this point: in his letter, Silva informs the United States that the cargo left Peru with official documents and insisted that Peru maintains its commitment in the fight against illegal logging. Although, in the letter there is no reference to the investigation carried out by Osinfor, Sunat and the other entities involved in Operation Amazonas.
El Comercio consulted former Minister Magali Silva regarding the content of this letter. She replied that it was decided to send the document due to the situation generated by US authorities and exporters due to the shipment of the wood retained in Houston in January 2015. According to Silva, this decision was made at a meeting with five sectors (Ministry of Agriculture, the Sunat, the Serfor (National Forest and Wildlife Service), the Ministry of Production and Osinfor) that ended up signing her as head of the Mincetur, guarantor sector of the FTA with the US.
“What was qualified in that letter was not the load but the departure that was made with legal documents and with the regional authority of Loreto that gave you the qualifying titles and the forest transport guides,” Silva replied.
– “But it is public that criminal gangs dedicated to timber trafficking use apparently legal documents to legalize timber of illicit origin, often in complicity with regional officials,” we asked the former minister.
“Up to the date I wrote the letter, there were no positive or negative results from the Prosecutor’s Office regarding this shipment. If we had had reliable elements of a completed investigation, we would still have issued an information note to the US authorities, “Silva replied.
Regarding the versions that indicate that there was discomfort within the government regarding the work of Osinfor, due to the fact that the reports on illegal cargo gave a “bad image” to the country, Silva replied: “Sometimes a complaint like this runs through everything. the world and if we have a stagnant economy it is risky because they say: we will never buy from Peru again ”.
Sources consulted by this newspaper and who were present at some meetings held between the Mincetur and other state entities maintain that there was discomfort from various state officials due to Osinfor’s reports on the percentages of illegal wood that Peru exported to the United States. Sectors such as Mincetur, Agriculture and Foreign Relations maintained that this could “scare away” investments and damage the country’s image. The former minister preferred not to comment on this version.
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