By Christopher Looft
The UN may sanction Paraguay for failing to properly monitor its trade in wildlife, a reminder that the country's smuggling networks -- which already move drugs, weapons, and contraband goods through the Southern Cone -- can also adapt themselves to eco-trafficking.
If Paraguay does not amend its legislation and enforce stronger regulations against eco-traffickers by October 1, it could lose its right to engage in the legal wildlife trade, following a decision by United Nations (UN) conservation delegates meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland. Paraguay is one of seven countries to face sanctions for failing to enforce its laws against wildlife smuggling, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
According to one UN spokesman, these sanctions would make it illegal for Paraguay to trade in any of the 35,000 species protected under the 175-country Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), a treaty managed by the Geneva-based UN Environment Program.
Another AP report noted that conservationists are most concerned about species such as jaguars and tamarins (squirrel-sized monkeys, see picture) that are smuggled from Paraguay, as well as various types of flora.
InSight Crime Analysis
As the AP reported, wildlife smuggling nets criminal groups worldwide between $16 billion and $27 billion a year, according to Cites estimates. The UN's warning is a reminder that Paraguay's smuggling networks, which bring in billions of dollars a year, can easily be used to move flora and fauna, along with other illicit goods like weapons and drugs. Smugglers of various types are especially entrenched in Ciudad del Este, a border town that offers access to Brazil and Argentina.
Given Paraguay's rich biodiversity, lax law enforcement, and well-developed contraband networks, it is no surprise that the scale of eco-trafficking there warranted a warning from UN conservation authorities. However, even if Paraguay creates new regulations against the trade, the question is whether these laws can properly be enforced. A high rate of official corruption has contributed to Paraguay's status as a regional smuggling hub.