First jail sentence for environmental crime in Colombia

December 12th, 2010 - 12:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Bogota, Dec 12 (IANS/EFE) A peasant who took his cows to a national park of snowcapped mountains in western Colombia was sentenced to 32 months in prison, the first jail sentence to be handed down here for an environmental crime, a media report said.The decision was taken by a criminal court in Manizales as part of a process promoted by the Management of Natural National Parks, the daily El Tiempo said, identifying the farmworker as Gilberto Ruiz Pachon.

Ruiz was charged with grazing 31 cows in the Alfombrales area of Los Nevados Park, a Andean natural reserve spanning the shared borders of the provinces of Caldas, Quindio and Tolima.

According to the daily, “the animals destroyed the vegetation, contaminated the water and damaged the soil in a part of this protected area”.

Aside from the two years and eight months in prison, the farmworker, who lives in the Tolima town of Libano, must pay two fines - one to the Environment Ministry to the amount of 10 million pesos ($5,230) and another to judicial authorities for 52.15 million pesos (some $27,277).

“This time sanctions could be applied, but more than 90 percent of such cases go unpunished,” said the director of national parks, Julia Miranda.

The official blamed the high degree of impunity on congestion in the courts and the lack of training in the judiciary, for which reason, she said, the creation of an environmental-crimes unit is being undertaken with the Attorney General’s Office.

–IANS/EFE
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