Greenpeace has once again detected illegal forest clearing in Argentina’s northern province of Salta, one of the most deforested in the country. Earlier this year the organisation denounced political collusion between a businessman and Salta’s provincial government to illegally clear protected areas.
According to the organisation, 700 hectares of protected forests were cleared between June and August in farms bordering Los Palmares Provincial Reserve, part of an ecological corridor set up by the Argentine government to protect the Gran Chaco biome.
The farms are owned by Inversora Juramento S.A., the largest agribusiness in northwest Argentina. Inversora Juramento owns over 41,000 hectares of cattle ranches and more than 15,000 hectares of soy, corn, alfalfa and sorghum plantations. The company also operates its own meat processing business, Frigorífico Bermejo S.A., with a slaughter capacity of 8,500 heads of cattle a month.
The farms are located in fragile floodplains that are home to several endangered species, including tapirs, rhea birds, armadillos and crowned eagles.
Noemí Cruz, Greenpeace Argentina’s Forest Campaign Coordinator, said in a statement that “we are once again witnesses of the impunity with which large businesses violate the Forest Law in Salta […] with the government’s complicity. This shows why deforestation must be seen for what it really is: a crime”.
Earlier this year EARTHSIGHT reported on the illegal issuance of licenses by the Salta government authorising the deforestation of over 150,000 hectares in the province, in contravention of the country’s National Forest Law. Argentina’s Environment Ministry responded by ordering the provincial government to revoke the licenses granted to businessman Alejandro Jaime Braun Peña.
Braun Peña, who has been accused of money laundering, is a cousin of the federal government’s chief of staff and a director in several businesses belonging to the family of Argentina’s president. This has led Greenpeace to accuse the government of Salta and Braun Peña of political collusion to illegally deforest protected areas in the province. In May, Greenpeace presented a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleging threats made by Braun Peña against the organisation.
Salta has repeatedly ranked among Argentina’s top four provinces for illegal deforestation. Most land conversion in Salta is driven by soy plantations and cattle ranching.