A fire burns in the Amazon rainforest.

(Photo: Getty Images/Brasil2)

Rainforest Watchdog Accuses Peru of 'Predatory' Attack on Amazon

New rules approved by the nation's lawmakers "will effectively make it 'open season' for organized crime, says Amazon Watch.

In what opponents called a rushed vote without adequate notification or debate, Peru's right-wing congressional majority on Wednesday effectively decriminalized illegal logging, a move Amazon defenders warned will empower criminal groups to destroy ecosystems critical to the survival of Indigenous peoples and biodiversity.

El Comercioreported that after less than 10 minutes of debate, Peru's Plenary Congress approved amendments to the country's Forest and Wildlife Law following a request for legislative reconsideration filed by Congresswoman Nilza Chacón Trujillo, a member of the right-wing Popular Force party. The vote was 69-35, with five abstentions.

"Most experts in Peru agree that the interest behind modifying the Forestry Law is to adapt to the new import restrictions of products that deforest the Amazon in the European and U.S. markets in an underhanded way," said Ricardo Pérez, Peru's communications adviser at Amazon Watch—which said the amendments "will effectively make it 'open season'" for Amazon exploitation, including by organized criminal groups.

"The authorities of these countries must make a firm statement that they will not 'fall for' the game," Pérez added. "Millions of hectares of forest and the very lives of Peruvian Indigenous defenders are at risk."

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), an Indigenous advocacy group, said, "We point out the inconsistency of the Peruvian government which commits to reducing deforestation in international meetings and forums... but in practice promotes laws like this and other predatory actions against the Amazon."

"The modification of the Forestry Law directly affects Peru's climate commitments under the Paris agreement by reducing the necessary conditions to consider the zoning of properties that supposedly do not have 'forests,' thus freeing these spaces from a mechanism that protects areas still maintaining forest cover," AIDESEP added. "It is well-documented that individual properties are areas of high deforestation, and freeing them from forest zoning means encouraging deforestation, which is the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Peru."

Amazon defenders said the vote was especially alarming given that two Indigenous leaders— Quinto Inuma of the Kichwa people and Benjamín Flores Ríos of the Kakataibo—have been assassinated in recent weeks following the killings of multiple environmental defenders in Peru last year.

"In both cases, they had successfully exposed the 'crime of deforestation,' which now might no longer be legally sustainable in Peru," said Amazon Watch.

AIDESEP is demanding that the Peruvian government "effectively address the historical debt" owed to Indigenous peoples.

"Our lives and future generations depend on the Amazon, so we will defend it against the imposition of harmful laws," the group said.

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