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Moment of Truth: Promise or Peril for the Amazon as Peru Confronts its Illegal Timber Trade

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EIA’s new report describes important advances since 2012 in Peru’s fight against illegal logging, timber laundering, and its associated international trade – as well as the backlash against these new approaches.

The evidence of persistent illegal logging, systemic corruption, laundering, and illegal timber in Peru’s exports remains overwhelming. While the U.S. has begun to crack down on illegal Peruvian timber, major importing countries like China and Mexico are turning a blind eye.

Human rights violations, long-term economic impacts, and damage to biodiversity and the global climate are all embedded in the Peruvian forest sector’s current operating model. At the same time, Peru’s institutions have shown that they have the tools to conduct effective enforcement and create more transparent procedures and systems.

This is a Moment of Truth. Can Peru accept and act on the truths revealed by its own enforcement actions? Or will it now eliminate the rules and inspections that are necessary for tracing timber back to verified, legal origins?

The report focuses on three pieces:

  1. A multi-year enforcement effort called Operation Amazonas that in 2015 focused on the shipping vessel Yacu Kallpa, the largest export trade stream of timber from the northern Peruvian Amazon. Upon investigation, enforcement agencies discovered that an average of 91.3% -- and as high as 96% -- of the timber this ship carried was from illegal sources, leading to detentions and seizures in Peru, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and the U.S.

  2. Protests, backlash and high-level pushback in response to these efforts to enforce the law and introduce greater transparency to the system. The timber industry, its primary regulatory authority (the National Forest and Wildlife Service, Serfor), and other government entities in Peru have denied or minimized the problem and attempted to weaken enforcement institutions. They have also reduced data collection and changed official requirements to make it almost impossible to trace timber and verify legal origin, in contravention of Peru’s own laws and commitments.

  3. A new analysis of hundreds of pages of official documents that reveal systematic exports of illegal and high-risk timber from Peru’s main port of Callao during 2015, by dozens of companies and to 18 countries. It is impossible to replicate this analysis for 2016 or 2017, since the Peruvian forest authority has decided to stop compiling the necessary data.


Download the full report in English or Spanish

Access original source documents here

Read EIA’s companion brief about China’s imports of illegal and high-risk Peruvian wood products

Read the press release

Review EIA’s 2012 exposé of illegal logging and associated trade, The Laundering Machine: How Fraud and Corruption in Peru's Concession System are Destroying the Future of its Forests

Review November 2017 exposés of illegal timber trade by Global Witness and the Center for International Environmental Law

View all Reports

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