Chile withdraws from treaty that protects environmental activists

SANTIAGO – Another worrying signal that the Chilean government doesn´t see the environment as priority. Minister of Environment Carolina Schmidt announced that Chile won´t sign the Escazú treaty, a multilateral initiative, drawn under the Bachelet administration. The treaty obliges participating states to consult citizens ahead of environmental impacting projects.

While the environmental tragedy in Quintero and the permission for blasting in the mine on Isla Riesco continue to make headlines in Chile, Minister of Environment Carolina Schmidt told the press today that Chile has withdrawn from the Escazú treaty. The international agreement was to be signed in the United Nations, and was an initiative taken under the Bachelet administration, amongst other countries.

The Escazú treaty states that countries, before making a decision on a project that could have an environmental impact, are obliged to take consultations from citizens in account when drawing up policies. Also, the protection of environmental activists falls under the treaty. 24 governments in Latin-America had agreed on the treaty, and Chile was one of the driving forces behind the treaty.

That is to say, under the Bachelet administration. Under the Piñera government, the winds seem to have changed. Although in June of this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed their commitment to the treaty. They even invited other governments, who weren´t part of the treaty yet, to sign the agreement, “to contribute through its implementation to a more comprehensive protection of the environment and the strengthening of human rights”.

Schmidt said that “for international reasons”, Chile has withdrawn. She didn´t explain what those international reasons were.

Dozens of new victims in Quintero – Greenpeace slams Piñera on environmental plans

Environmental crimes in the Chilean law

Although this week hasn´t been the most positive one for environmental activists, Minister Schmidt did announce the creation of a bill that makes environmental crimes punishable in Chile. Different initiatives and drafts of the law have been passed through different governments, but environmental crimes were never officially incorporated into the Criminal Code. Minister Schmidt today a new draft will come, sponsored by the government, but any details were not given.

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