The U.S. and Spanish governments are supporting Colombia’s efforts to curb deforestation and environmental crimes driven by narcotrafficking and organized crime.
As such, the Spanish Interior Ministry and the Colombian Ministry of Defense agreed February 17, 2022 to strengthen their collaboration against these crimes, the Spanish government said in a statement.
Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska visited Colombia and pledged to support the Colombian Police and combat the destruction caused by illegal coca leaf crops and the ensuing chemical process for cocaine production, reported Spanish newspaper El País.
Spanish elements of the Civil Guard’s Nature Protection Service and the National Police’s Specialized Crime Unit will coordinate the support, El País added.
“We are strengthening our relationship with Spain […] to share experiences in the fight against transnational crime, as well as training and education of the Public Force,” Colombian Minister of Defense Diego Molano said via Twitter.
Narcotrafficking causes environmental destruction in Colombia. It pollutes rivers with chemical precursors used to process drugs and destroys forested areas to make room for coca crops, said InSight Crime, an investigative journalism organization that specializes in organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Deforestation is the most visible face of environmental crime in Colombia’s Amazon,” the organization said. Dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have also been paying local people to clear land for coca crops, Insight Crime added.
According to the Colombian Ministry of the Environment, cooperation with countries such as the United States is yielding results. From January to June 2020, deforestation affected some 64,000 hectares of land, while the same period in 2021 saw less forest loss, with 42,600 hectares.
The United States and Colombia are working on projects to curb logging, preserve biodiversity, and increase environmental security in the Amazon. In October 2021, the United States pledged to contribute $50 million to support Colombian efforts against these crimes, the Colombian Foreign Ministry said.
The Amazon is home to 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity, 20 percent of fresh water, and 60 percent of the world’s tropical forests. In the last 50 years, the Amazon lost 17 percent of its native forests, Colombian newspaper La República reported.
As such, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Amazon Alive project, has been helping the Colombian government to improve the prevention and prosecution of environmental crimes, in order to reduce deforestation and step up forest conservation.
Amazon Alive, launched in July 2021, is active in the departments of Caquetá, Guaviare, Meta, and Putumayo, and will run until June 2026, USAID says on its website. The initiative seeks to increase arrests of environmental offenders; to mobilize investment of $13 million in programs to strengthen the capabilities of 95 Colombian public institutions to combat environmental crimes, the loss of biodiversity, and climate change; and to train 10,000 people in sustainable natural resources management.
As a step forward, on February 15, the Colombian Ministry of the Environment announced the activation of the first Unified Environmental Command Post, which will coordinate the efforts of the Ministry of Defense, the Public Force, and the Office of the Attorney General to continuously monitor actions against illegal logging and help achieve zero deforestation by 2030.