The ninth edition of Operation Artemis (Operación Artemisa), a strategy of the Colombian Military Forces to stop deforestation throughout the national territory, took place in the Amazon region February 15-19. The operation had 412 units of the Military Forces and the National Police participating, as well as authorities and government entities from the environmental sector.
Among the results, authorities regained control of about 3,100 hectares that were used for illegal cattle farming, and arrested 13 people, including three of the most wanted criminals for deforestation in the Colombian Amazon, in the forest reserve area of Serranía de Chiribiquete National Natural Park and rural areas of neighboring municipalities, the Colombian Military Forces’ General Command (CGFM, in Spanish) said in a statement. Those captured will be charged for crimes of invasion of areas of particular ecological importance and illegal use of natural resources and fire.
“Undoubtedly, much of this deforesting criminal cattle farming that has reached this region is also linked to organized armed groups’ money laundering operations, which bring cattle without movement licenses and also expose our country to threatening circumstances,” Colombian President Iván Duque told the press on February 26.
During the operation, authorities also executed nine search warrants and rendered inoperable two houses in Serranía de Chiribiquete National Park. They also seized three tractor-trailer vehicles, four branding instruments for cattle, and seven chainsaws, among other equipment.
Launched in April 2019, Operation Artemis is part of the Defense and Security Policy in strategic environmental areas, aimed at mitigating destabilizing factors that deplete the environment, biodiversity, and natural resources. According to the CGFM, about 200,000 hectares of forests have been destroyed throughout the national territory each year since 2017, with the Amazon region as the most deforested area.
“When we launched Artemis and our environmental policy, we said we would reduce deforestation significantly. [In] the first two years of our government, we achieved a 19 percent reduction [in deforestation], and we have an obligation to continue this reduction further,” Duque said.
“It’s an integrated work comprising all our forces; we have 10 high mountain battalions, a brigade against narcotrafficking, a brigade against illegal mining, and coast guard and marines units, as well as members of the National Police,” Minister of Defense Diego Molano Aponte said, adding that Artemis not only seeks to protect natural resources, but also to combat narcotrafficking.
Since the inception of this operation, authorities have recovered 12,358 hectares in natural parks; seized 27,883 cubic meters of wood; rescued 9,137 endangered birds, mammals, and reptiles; and seized nearly 2 million liters of liquid and 357,047 kilograms of solid chemical precursors for drug processing, the CGFM said. They also captured 81 people for different environmental crimes and rendered inoperable 32 buildings, an illegal road, and two bridges in a protected natural area, among other results, the CGFM reported.