Hugo Isn't Boss
Venezuela’s Environment Ministry, hampered by corruption, understaffing, and inadequate funding, is doing little to stop plundering and degradation of the nation’s rainforests, coral reefs, rare wildlife, and other natural resources. Poachers openly sell endangered parrots; Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in South America, is severely polluted with oil and waste from tankers; and thousands of illegal gold miners uproot trees in the rainforest and contaminate rivers with mercury. “It’s a disaster,” admits Environment Minister Jesus Arnaldo Perez, “but we’re trying to recover our authority so we can enforce the law.” Government officials say the administration of new Pres. Hugo Chavez wants to get the problems under control, but enviros are up in arms over Chavez’s plan to move millions of people out of cities in the north and create new population and industrial centers in sparsely populated areas in the east and south, where much of the country’s spectacular wildlife lives.