Spanish Greenpeace Supports Embargo on Liberia's "Wood of War"

The Perspective

April 26, 2001

The Spain-based environmental movement, Greenpeace, has added its voice to the call for sanctions to be imposed on Liberia for aiding and abetting the ongoing crisis in Sierra Leone. In a recent statement issued by the group, the "wood of war", Greenpeace agrees with the findings of the UN Panel of Experts Report on Sierra Leone, and further reinforces the point that there is a direct relation between the destruction of the Liberian rainforest and the traffic of arms.

The movement supports an embargo on wood coming from Liberia, and has challenged the Spanish government to take steps in curtailing the commercial relations Spanish businesses have with Liberia.

According to the statement, the Spanish market is one of the major European consumers of tropical wood coming from the African continent. In 1990, Liberia occupied the fourth position by volume of tropical wood of the exporting African countries (behind Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and the Republic of Congo).

The statement adds that due to the war, the exports from Liberia were suspended, but in 1998, the Spanish market consumed 6,800 m 3 of the wood by value of 208 million pesetas.

Forum Liberia and Forum Africa, two of the major business ventures cited in the UN Report, involved in the destruction of the rainforest, are said to be members and integrated in the Spanish Association of Importers of Madera (AEIM). Leonid Minin, one of the people mentioned in the UN Report for gun-running and diamond smuggling, is the head of Forum Liberia. He was arrested in Italy last August and is serving his two years jail sentence for cocaine possesion. Minin is a Ukrainian with Israeli passport. He resides in Monrovia and heads this shady company known as Forum. It is believed that Minin has arranged some arms purchases from several Eastern block countries including Russia. These weapons are being used by Mr. Taylor's security and his RUF ally to terrorize the sub-region.

But while Greenpeace and other environmental groups have urged sanction on the Liberian timber industry, disappointingly however, the UN Security Council will not impose this when it implements Resolution 1343 come May 7, when the two months deadline given to the Taylor regime to adhere to U.N. demands expires.

It can be recalled that France and China, two principal members of the Security Council, and primary buyers of Liberian timber, were vehemently opposed to sanctions on timber even though they reluctantly supported sanctions on arms, travel and diamonds. These countries argued that timber accounts for 30% of Liberia's national budget and its inclusion in the sanctions regime would hurt the ordinary people. But Liberians at home and in the Diaspora consider the claim to be an affront. They feel that despite the millions of dollars earned from timber, electricity, pipe borne water, school supplies for school children, etc still remain a dream. Amid massive poverty, the president and his clique live lavish lifestyles. Opposition only exists in name. Those who venture to speak out against the prevailing injustices and terror in the country are targeted for elimination and/or charged with treason or sedition. Liberians overwhelmingly support the sanctions and want for the lifting of the sanctions when imposed, to be based on good governance, freedom of the press and movement, etc.

Meanwhile, with sanctions pending and with increasing political repression in Liberia, U.S. based pro-democracy groups under the umbrella of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), will hold a national rally and conference on democracy tomorrow, April 27, 2001, at the United Nations headquarters in the city of New York. Among its many objectives, the rally will call for support for the imposition of international sanctions against the Taylor regime, while the conference will discuss the formation of strategies for the democratization of the Liberian society.

In another development, President Taylor, desperate to find a way out, is pleading with opposition politicians to come to the United Nations to plead on his behalf. The Liberian ruler will bankroll the trip to the UN with what some consider as blood money.

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