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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Bolivia

    Bolivia’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 345 of the Constitution outlines the role of the State and the population in preserving, protecting and profiting off of natural resources and biodiversity in a sustainable manner. It states that people have the right to be consulted and informed over the decisions that could affect the environmental quality

    Environmental policies, according to the Constitution, are based on:

  • The planned and participative administration.
  • The application of systems for evaluating the environmental impact and for controlling the environmental quality in all the productive activities of goods and services using or affecting natural resources and the environment.
  • The responsibility (criminal, civil and administrative) for the performance of any activity producing environment damages caused by the breach of environmental regulations.

Featured Legislation

1992: Bolivia’s Environmental Law was passed, overseeing the protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources. The law also regulates actions in relation to nature and promoting sustainable development in order to improve the quality of life of the population.

1998: Supreme Decree No. 25,203 was created. This Decree creates the Consultative Council of the Indigenous and Original Peoples of Bolivia, with the following attributions: 1) agree on policies aimed at developing the multiethnic and multicultural nature of the country, especially with regard to the social, economic and cultural rights of the peoples indigenous and originally from Bolivia; 2) propose comprehensive national and regional development plans and strategies that observe and reinforce their identity; 3) promote actions aimed at the recognition of lands for indigenous and native peoples; 4) recommend measures aimed at overcoming ethnic discrimination; 5) establish strategies for the construction of an intercultural and bilingual society, formulating sociolinguistic policies.

2010: The Supreme Decree No. 443 was approved with the aim of preserving Bolivian biodiversity and minimizing the effects of climate change.

2010: The Supreme Decree No, 71 was signed, recognizing the rights of the “Mother Earth” as a dynamic and alive system formed by the indivisible community of all life systems and living beings that are interrelated, interdependent.

2012: Law No. 300 (The Framework Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development for the Well Living) was enacted with the objective of establishing the vision and fundamentals of the integral development in harmony and equilibrium with Mother Earth for the “Well Living”.

2014: Law No. 576 was created to generate knowledge about biodiversity and natural resources for the development of that area.

2015: The National Water Quality Policy for Human Consumption was enacted. This document contains the National Water Quality Policy for Human Consumption under the following title: “Bolivia: A STATE, committed to its people to guarantee water quality", which establishes the principles, objectives and goals for the year 2020. to guarantee the supply of water suitable for human consumption, understood as water for drinking, as well as for all domestic use, including personal hygiene. The Policy is mandatory for all natural or legal persons that provide drinking water services, are suppliers of inputs or materials, users, or participate in any of the management, administration, operation, maintenance, control, supervision, surveillance or control activities. of water supply for human consumption in the national territory, from the water source to its point of use or consumption. Natural mineral waters, bottled waters, or waters that, due to their physical and chemical characteristics, are classified as medicinal waters, are not included in the scope of this Policy.

2015: The Supreme Decree No. 2366 was introduced to develop hydrocarbon activities in protected areas in order to benefit the habitants of those areas.

2015: The Supreme Decree No. 2453 was enacted to regulate the recovery of agricultural degraded soil in order to improve its production capacity and ensure the alimentary security.

2015: Law No. 700 (Defense of Domestic Animals against Acts of Cruelty and Abuse) was passed.

2015: Law No. 755 approved the regulation of integral management waste, aiming to protect health through the reduction and management of waste, and the adequate final disposition of garbage.

2016: Law No. 830 was signed, guaranteeing food security.

2016: The Supreme Decree No. 2914 was established to monitor and control deforestation and the degradation of forests.

2017: The Supreme Decree No. 3048 was approved, regulating the protection of wild animals and plants within the International Agreement of Wild Menaced Species

2017: The Strategy for the integral management of wetlands and RAMSAR sites was implemented. The Strategy for the integral management of wetlands and RAMSAR sites in Bolivia is a strategic instrument that proposes the construction of a culture of respecting the Common Good and water as a public good par excellence. A society oriented to the Common Good as an ideal of coexistence, as a basic foundation to achieve: respect for the rights of Mother Earth that is related to allowing her capacity for regeneration; meet people’s basic needs; create economic opportunities; the participation of the people; the search for an equitable distribution. Likewise, it seeks to: privilege water as a source of life and a common good par excellence; rescue, promote visions, conceptions and practices that value water; protect Wetlands and the functions they fulfill in generating the flow for life; promote education and training to take care of this resource from the family, the school, to all institutional levels; contribute to the conservation of water sources, headwaters and wetlands; fight pollution. The Strategy includes the following Strategic Axes: 1) Comprehensive management of life systems; 2) Articulation and complementarity; 3) Strengthening of capacities; 4) Resource management.

2017: Law No. 938 was passed to ensure the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • A recent investigation by Earth League International and the Dutch national committee to the IUCN reveals that criminal syndicates in China are driving the illegal trade of jaguar body parts in Bolivia. Hiding behind legitimate companies like restaurants and shops, criminal groups use their establishments as fronts to import and export wildlife and illegal drugs. Bolivia has witnessed an uptick in animal smuggling due to growing Chinese investment into infrastructure projects. At least three criminal groups have been located in the municipalities of San Borja, Rurrenabaque and Riberalta, selling jaguar meat in restaurants. The investigation concludes that collaborative efforts are required to combat jaguar trafficking in Bolivia.
  • The Minister for Rural Development and Land, Edwin Ronald Characayo Villega, was arrested in April 2021: For allegedly accepting cash bribes valued at $20,000 related to land trafficking. According to a government press release, Villega has been working with a network of collaborators in order to transfer the ownership of a property located in the municipality of San Ramón, located in the northeast of Santa Cruz de la Sierra city. For his efforts, Villega would have received $380, 00, but Bolivia’s Special Anti-Crime Task Force (Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Crimen – FELCC) charged him with “passive bribery, extortion, undue use of influence and obtaining benefits through using his position". Villega is not the first official to be embroiled in controversy; in December 2020: Another rural development minister, Wilson Cáceres, was charged for alleged acts of nepotism and influence peddling.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment and Water of Bolivia: