Recent seizures of illegally trafficked timber in Guatemala suggests there is an organized smuggling ring sophisticated enough to transport the wood in large quantities, Prensa Libre reports.

According to the newspaper, Guatemalan authorities seized three shipping containers between November and December last year, each containing 58.28 cubic meters of Dalbergia species, commonly referred to as "rosul" wood. The shipments were set to depart from one of Guatemala's most important ports, Santo Tomas de Castilla. A further 3.5 cubic meters of the illegally logged wood was seized in national parks across the country.

The tree species, protected under the terms of an international environmetal trafficking treaty, is highly demanded in China, which fuels the smuggling trade.

The investigation into these recent seizures suggests that members of the police and government environmental agencies are involved in the trafficking ring, according to the Prensa Libre report.

InSight Crime Analysis

Illegal logging can take two forms: local people using the wood for subsistence, or organized groups running large smuggling operations. The size of these recent seizures in Guatemala point to the latter. The alleged involvement of police or government officials also suggests a more sophisticated operation. The trafficking of protected species often relies on the same smuggling routes used to transport drugs. And similarly to the drug trade, in order to move large cargoes of product, police and environmental officials need to be bribed to look the other way. 

Last year Guatemala announced a crackdown on eco-trafficking, stating they would enforce stricter security measures at airports. But the initiative left the country's sea ports off the list of priorities, arguably a serious omission. 

Eco-trafficking is a lucrative trade across the Americas. Last year Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that his government would wage a "crusade" against timber trafficking due to its links to organized crime. Similarly, Nicaragua recently created the world's first "eco-battalion," a military unit that will focus solely on protecting the country's natural resources.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.