Deforestation in Latin America is a pretty complex issue. At the bottom of the whole deal are a lot of poor citizens with no way to make a living. When I say “poor” I mean live in a mud hut, no plumbing, grow all your own food, kind of poor. Agriculture, as it is, often consists of burning a few acres of forest, jabbing a stick in the ground amongst the ashes, dropping a few kernels of corn or beans in the hole, and hoping they grow. Intense tropical rains quickly wash the nutrients from the soil, and after a few years of worsening crops the farmer is forced to move on, burn more forest, and the cycle repeats. With the lowlands settled long ago the agriculture frontier marches slowly up the mountains into steeper slopes where poverty takes root better than the corn and beans.
Below are a couple of photos that make the point. The first shows elevations in the Dominican Republic, and the second shows remaining forest coverage. Note how the forests neatly overlay the mountains. High mountain ranges become de facto refuges for nature, the last places where forests and wildlife survive.