Polluting industries should be held accountable
In recent years, Mexico has become one of the biggest polluters in Latin America - Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Polluting industries should be held accountable

Mexico City
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In Mexico, polluting companies use legal procedures to prevent the payment of fines

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Environmental protection is a problem that takes precedence among society every year. The awareness that it is necessary to protect natural resources has spread among children, youngsters, adults, and even federal and state governments.

Over two decades ago, Mexico established the Federal Environment Protection Prosecutor Office (Profepa) and ever since, these types of organizations have been established in the states. Their goal is simple: monitor the application and fulfillment of environmental laws through inspection or handling citizen reports, as well as implementing sanctions when the rules are broken.

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In the last 7 years, from 2012 to August 2019, the Profepa has imposed 16,923 sanctions, around six every day, even on weekends. The amount of the fines reached MXN $1,740 million.

Nevertheless, law enforcement hasn't been entirely useful since the payment of fines made by companies is minimum. In the last 7 years, fines have amounted to MXN $193.8 million, only 11% of what should have been paid in fines.

In 2015, the Federal Audit Office asked the Profepa to analyze the reasons why the fines aren't collected. According to the Profepa, the companies use legal strategies to delay the payment of fines as long as possible.

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Furthermore, the budget cuts implemented at the Profepa should also be considered. In 2015, its budget amounted to MXN $1,100 million, while in 2018 only MXN $989 million were allocated, and in 2019, it only received MXN $796 million. There has been a 28% reduction in the last four years. Therefore, at least the legal department should be consolidated to face the legal strategies implemented to avoid fines.

The Mexican government can't send a message to companies and industries that implies that it is cheaper to pollute the environment and avoid fines than to invest in clean processes, nor that federal authorities ignore environmental protection.

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