(Bogota) The justice system in Colombia on Thursday accused leaders of dissident FARC guerrillas of being responsible for the intense deforestation underway in the Colombian Amazon.
Gentil Duarte, one of Colombia’s most wanted men, and his subordinates Ivan Mordisco and “John 40” are responsible for the illegal logging of thousands of hectares in the south of the country, the prosecution said in a statement. .
The three men are leaders of the dissidents of the Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerrilla who signed a peace agreement with the government in November 2016, but some of whose elements have since resumed arms.
“The evidence collected shows that, on the instructions of these individuals, aggressive deforestation has increased since 2016,” said Attorney General Francisco Barbosa.
Miguel Botache Santillan – alias “Gentil Duarte” -, whose head is priced at just over a million dollars by Bogota, and the other rebel leaders are accused of “invading an area of special ecological importance “,” Damage to natural resources “,” financing of coca plantations “and” conspiracy to commit a crime, “he added.
With the peace agreement signed five years ago, the main body of the FARC guerrillas abandoned large swathes of territory which were taken over by other armed groups, also taking advantage of the absence and inaction of the state in these areas.
The so-called Southeastern front of FARC dissidence, commanded by Botache Santillana, operates in the departments of Meta (center-south) and Guaviare (south), one of the main nodes of deforestation and where the road is in construction.
According to figures from the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), a public body, after the pact that disarmed the FARC, deforestation exploded in Colombia, from 123,841 hectares destroyed in 2015 to 219,552 in 2017.
According to prosecutor Barbosa, this “indiscriminate logging” is aimed at “the extensive ranching of cattle, the cultivation of coca and the production of drugs”, which “endangers soils, water sources and wildlife “.
According to testimonies collected by AFP in Guaviare, the large landowners also pay farmers to cut down trees, appropriate large tracts of land and let cattle graze there.
This “generates very important economic activities for some investors who have seen in this exploitation of natural resources the means of increasing their capital”, explained Albeiro Pachon, head of the environment department of the ministry, seeing in it the shadow of “Mafias”.
With a new “environmental crimes law”, right-wing President Ivan Duque intends to put an end to the destruction of the rainforest which has already cost more than 925,000 hectares of forest since 2016, an area similar to that of Cyprus.