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Asunto:[LEA-Venezuela] Budget Crisis Threatens Venezuela’s National Parks
Fecha:Jueves, 14 de Noviembre, 2002  23:19:04 (+0000)
Autor:Carlos Portillo <carlosportillo>

Budget Crisis Threatens Venezuela’s National Parks

Versión en español

A serious economic crisis at the Venezuelan National Parks Institute (Inparques) -- the organization responsible for administering the country’s national parks system -- could result in the strike of Inparques employees and the closure of 43 national parks, 21 natural monuments and 26 recreational parks in upcoming weeks.

Inparques has had a budget deficit for approximately two years. According to Carmen Cecilia Castillo, Inparques president, “This year the functioning of Inparques required 17,000 million Bolívares (US$ 11 million); yet the institution only received 4,000 million Bolívares from the central administration.”

Furthermore, approximately 1,700 Inparques employees and workers are claiming salary and benefit debts from as far back as 1999. The leaders of the Inparques trade union, Sunep-Inparques, claim that the institution owes the workers approximately 13,000 million Bolívares (US $9 million). According to their calculations, the average debt owed to each worker is over 5 million Bolívares (US$ 3,000). The union also claims that 50% of the workers that have worked with Inparques for over 15 years are still not considered official park personnel, and as a result, they lack many benefits, including job stability.

In April 2001, park guards in national parks across Venezuela almost went on strike due to delinquent pay and benefits. (Photo: César Aponte)

The union chose the first week in September as the beginning of the “final hour,” and has begun declaring the indefinite paralysis of Inparques activities by posting signs at the entrance of several parks in both Caracas and the interior of the country.“We are doing this to raise public awareness of the problem faced by thousands of workers, who have had to use their own money to avoid parks closures.  All this has functioned on pure desire, but now they are hitting us in the stomach,” pointed out José Matute, general secretary of Sunep-Inparques.

Inparques general director César Iván Alvarado was confused by the employees’ attitude, “They have already been informed about the progress we have made to cancel the pending debt.” Presently, the government has approved for Inparques an additional credit of 8,500 million Bolívares (US$ 5.7 million), and the organization has permission to borrow the remaining US$ 9 million it needs to pay the debt owed to employees. However, employees’ patience is running out. On September 10, to put pressure on the government to accelerate the release of the credit approved by the president, the workers marched on the Ministry of Finance headquarters in Caracas.

In addition to the delinquent pay and benefits of Inparques personnel, the national parks, natural monuments and recreation areas do not receive the resources required for their maintenance. On numerous visits to Venezuela’s national parks, ParksWatch has verified serious budget deficiencies, which is reflected in the lack of both infrastructure and equipment (vehicles, boats, radios, telephones, uniforms) that park rangers need to adequately protect the parks. In those parks that do have equipment, the problem is often a lack of funding to keep the equipment in good working condition.

Inparques’ economic situation is a serious threat to the park system, which protects resources of vital importance for the quality of life of Venezuelans. In order to alleviate employee discontent it is necessary to release the monetary resources approved by the government as soon as possible; however, the solution to the budget crisis needs to be solved with long-term vision. To achieve the optimum functioning of Venezuela’s parks system, personnel must be motivated by a fair salary, constant training, and adequate infrastructure and equipment. Inparques has a valuable human resource that cannot be lost.

During the first week of September 2002, Inparques workers began an awareness campaign
to inform park visitors about the conflict.
(Photo: Jorge Santos)

It is important that the Venezuelan government pay attention to the Ministry of Environment and its organizations. The parks have an important socioeconomic relevance in Venezuela.  The creation of small businesses near the parks generates employment, which results in sustainable use of the environment and stimulation of the economy.

At the same time it is necessary to involve other sectors of society, such as private companies, non-governmental organizations, and research centers in finding alternative funding solutions. At present, ParksWatch is developing the project “Venezuela National Parks Allies Network" with the goal of promoting citizen involvement in the protection of national parks (which will contribute to the mission of Inparques).

Br. Carlos Portillo
Departamento de Biologia.
Facultad Experimental de Ciencias-LUZ