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Wikileaks Mahogany Report Confronts Survival vs. Peru

Peru Environment Minister Antonio Brack is countering charges by the indigenous advocacy group Survival International that Peru President Alan Garcia failed to act after detecting that mahogany trees illegally logged back in 2006 had been exported to the U.S.

Brack confirmed that Garcia’s government did at one time confront forgeries of documents linked to mahogany exports but said that those problems have long since been tackled, reported the newspaper El Comercio, the only Peruvian media so far that Wikileaks has sent leaked cables to.

The March 4 report came as Survival International called for pressure against Peru to remedy a supposedly ongoing situation involving alleged illegal wood exports that is not just hurting the environment but also Native populations.

“I am worried that the NGO is releasing this information as if it were a current situation. These are things of the past, and the situation has totally changed,” Brack said. “The ministry is the scientific authority that approves which mahogany and from where it can be cut down. In second place the agriculture ministry, based on what the scientific authority says, authorizes the cutting down of the tree. Each mahogany tree that gets cut down today is controlled and geographically located.”

The web page of the Environment Ministry in late January reported the participation of Natives in a program to sell seeds of the mahoganey tree, which is recognizable for its large size and reddish color, to responsible farmers.

Forestry attracts very little attention from the press and even commodity reporters. Peru only exports about $200 million annually in total in wood and wood products, a tiny fraction of $35 billion in total exports in 2010, mostly from metals and hydrocarbons.