Narco cash laundered into large-scale agriculture in Central America

16.05.2017

Seized cocaine bales being offloaded at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach Photo: Creative Commons

new study comparing forest loss and cocaine busts supports the theory that drug money is being laundered into large-scale agriculture in Central America.

The study, published this week in Environmental Research Letters, estimates that forest loss linked to narco-trafficking may account for between 15 and 30 per cent of forest loss in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras in the past decade.

While some attention has been given to deforestation specifically for the cultivation of coca, the study tested the theory that some of the US$6 billion in illegal profits are invested in agriculture as a means to launder it into the “legal” economy.

Previous studies have found that traffickers invest in cattle ranching, palm oil plantations and the timber trade. The new study hypothesised that agriculture linked to the drug trade could be distinguished from smallholder farming due to the “high degree of illicit capitalization and related ability to monopolize rural land and labor, yielding anomalously large, remote, and rapid forest clearing”.

The authors conclude that “drug trafficking is likely to operate synergistically with other drivers of land change that hasten forest loss, particularly within remote frontiers where illegal land grabs and consolidation are unimpeded by weak governance structures”.

The study found that probable “narco-driven” forest loss has been concentrated in areas of high conservation importance. “[W]e found that concentrations of forest loss likely related to drug trafficking are within many of the most culturally and biologically diverse and isolated regions of Central America”, the authors wrote.

More from Blog

Environment Bill / Government proposals to end UK role in driving deforestation overseas must be beefed up for benefits to be realised

Continue reading
Siberia / Ikea, FSC actions on Siberia illegal logging scandal are a start. In our climate crisis, they must do much more

Continue reading
Grand Theft Chaco / An Illustrated guide to Europe’s role in Paraguay forest destruction

Continue reading
EUTR / Swedish court fines company for Ukrainian timber purchases that flouted EU law, following Earthsight investigation

Continue reading
У 2019 р. розслідування Earthsight засвідчило, що шведські й італійські фірми імпортували деревину через українську компанію, пов’язану з Віктором Сівцем, який, як відомо, був...

Continue reading
Open Letter / EU transparency needed after key laws delayed



Continue reading
Untamed Timber / Pressure mounts on US, EU to probe Brazilian timber imports

Continue reading
Open Letter / Authorities urged to investigate cases of illegal deforestation in Alto Paraguay

Continue reading
Grand Theft Chaco / An Earthsight response to the environment ministry of Paraguay

Continue reading
У червні цього року Earthsight опублікувала результати детального дослідження, де було показано, як деревина, незаконно заготовлена в одних із останніх європейських пралісів в...

Continue reading

Stay up to date with all Earthsight news & updates

Receive email updates for the latest news and insights from Earthsight and be among the first to read our new investigations.

We keep your data secure and don’t share anything with third parties. Read full terms.