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Illegal deforestation spikes in Colombia: How FARC prevented deforestation and the government cannot

Although FARC groups have been largely demobilized in the two years since the peace deal they signed with the Colombian government, the government has been unable to prevent escalation in illegal activities that impact the country’s forests, an escalation that is heavily driven by the fallout of a demobilized FARC. Leading causes of deforestation in the country come from land-grabbing, illegal mining, and drug trafficking, in addition to trafficking in the illegal felled timber. Surprisingly, FARC guerrilla’s largely limited deforestation in the areas they controlled, largely through extreme violence or its threat, as the forest was essential for their ability to conceal themselves and their activities from the government.

Since demobilization, massive land grabs in previously untouched areas are now accounting for up to 65% of all deforestation in the country, according to its Ministry of Environment. Land grabs are most often conducted by wealthy individuals who acquire large tracts of land through legal and illegal methods, then pay locals to remove large areas of forrest to make room for cattle ranching. Also with FARC demobilization, is the fragmentation of FARC dissident groups and criminal organizations allied with them. these groups are working to profit from the deforestation by extorting owners per hectare that is logged or by the head of cattle grazed on the new land. Several of these groups also prevent law enforcement from carrying out inspections or reports. A further 20% of the deforestation is driven by illicit crop cultivation, with the country seeing a 12% increase in the amount of land under coca cultivation. Mexican cartels are also reportedly increasing their presence in former FARC areas in order to ensure cocaine supply. Lastly, illegal mining contributes around 8% of deforestation, providing a source of income and money-laundering method. 

Source: How Organized Crime Profits from Deforestation in Colombia

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