NAFTA Panel Finds Mexico Slow to Respond to Illicit Logging on Indian Lands
MEXICO CITY Rogue loggers are taking advantage of slow-reacting authorities, mountainous terrain and even language barriers to clear-cut trees on Indian lands in northern Mexico, activists and an international environmental commission said Monday.
Tarahumara Indian anti-logging activists have been threatened, imprisoned or killed in a quarter-century battle over the pine and fir forests of the rugged Tarahumara mountains, located about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of the Texas border.
"The law isn't being enforced. If you don't pressure (authorities), they don't listen to you," said Maria Teresa Guerrero, who heads a nonprofit group in northern Chihuahua state that helped the Indians bring a complaint against the Mexican government before the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.
"The process has taken five years ... people are tired, many of them don't even want to file complaints any more," Guerrero said of filings by several Tarahumara communities against loggers between 1998 and 2000.
In response to the filings, the CEC -- a panel set up by Mexico, the United States and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement -- issued a report on Monday that cited some Mexican officials as saying there were too few environmental inspectors, a backlog of complaints, and too few resources to mount enough inspection trips.
"It is acknowledged by government authorities that there are too few ... inspectors and that their salaries are not in line with the rest of the federal civil service," according to the report by the Montreal-based commission.
The CEC is charged with compiling factual records but does not find fault with one party or the other.
Given a chance to respond within the report, the Mexican government said it has "responded, in a timely manner and using a fair, open and equitable procedure, to a total of 173 citizen complaints."
Of 28 citizen complaints covered in the report, Mexican authorities issued fines or corrective measures, like reforesting, in 16 instances. The remediating measures weren't carried out in 9 of those cases, however.
Mexico's Attorney General's Office for Environmental Protection also said that some complaints were poorly written.
Guerrero, of the Commission for Solidarity and the Defense of Human Rights, acknowledged that language is a problem because Spanish is second language for many Tarahumara.
The Tarahumara mountains are home to pine and fir forests, and endangered species such as the military macaw, the thick-billed parrot, and the threatened Mexican golden trout.
Source: Associated Press