Flor de Maria Vega Zapata is Peru’s National Coordinator for Environmental Prosecutors and leads a team of prosecutors to investigate and prosecute transnational criminal organizations engaged in the multi-billion dollar criminal enterprises of illegal mining and illegal logging.
Illegal gold mining in Peru has fueled a criminal ecosystem that undermines the rule of law through corruption, facilitates human trafficking, destroys natural resources, and is a main cause of biodiversity loss in the Peruvian Amazon. Some of the contamination caused by illegal mining also endangers public health, particularly women and children and indigenous peoples. Family clans control areas with minimal state presence and direct the illicit activities that then feed into transnational criminal networks.
Despite threats from transnational criminal organizations and entrenched political and economic interests seeking to discredit and derail her work, Ms. Vega brought together Peru’s environmental enforcement interagency to disrupt illegal mining activities, resulting in 500 operations against illegal miners in 2016 alone. Her efforts to train, equip, and mentor her team of prosecutors resulted in the first convictions of illegal mining cases in 2019. Ms. Vega led her prosecutorial team in Iquitos to investigate and seize $1.6 million in illegal timber, the largest illegal logging shipment in Peru’s history. Her work on the illegal logging case proved to be a watershed moment in Peru’s fight against this crime.
Read more about this issue at the Environmental Investigation Agency.
The International Woman of Courage Award is facilitated by: