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Peru – Coca cultivation on the rise

Just like the Colombian FARC, what remains of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) rebel group in Peru, has played a leading role in the production and trafficking of cocaine with excellent returns, since the Andean country, over the last years has increased coca cultivation and Peru has become the world’s main grower of coca leaves and one of the world’s top three producers of cocaine, alongside Colombia and Bolivia.

Despite the Peruvian President Humala’s efforts to keep the promise he made during the 2011 presidential campaign – he promised voters a tough line on crime with US support – the PROSEGUIR (Continue) faction has become a proliferation of senderistas, playing different roles within the framework of a global strategy. This faction, particularly active in the VRAE region, has turned into a real drug-trafficking group. The VRAE region, area of uncontested Shining Path control, is located in the south of the country in the Ayacucho’s region. The dense vegetation along with high moisture in a warm humid climate have created the perfect habitat for coca cultivation. Peruvian coca plantations are among the best in the world. The well-equipped rebels, have complete control of the area, and are able to successfully face the army’s attempts to eradicate crime and illicit activities.

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Shining Path rebels can easily manage the cocaine’s production process and trade. They sell the drug throughout the region. The cocaine loads are transported by land through Ecuador, or through the Guayaquil region, or by small aircraft that take off five or six times a month mainly from the central region of Bajo Huallanga and Yarina carrying, on each flight, a ton of cocaine. In recent times, since the Peruvian police has intensified controls, rivers have turned out to be good routes for the transport of cocaine: the Putumayo and Leticia rivers are used for transporting drug loads to Colombia, and the Ucayali and Amazon as rivers for the loads headed to other neighboring countries.

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The offensive launched by President Humala, while it has produced significant results with regard to the number of arrests, did not appear to be effective in reducing coca cultivation. Also in this case, however, many have interpreted the US support in the drug war as a geopolitical pretext to quietly increase the US military footprint in the Andean country, through development plans that involve the construction of military facilities, including an air base in the VRAE region. A ‘Plan Colombia’ replication that has militarized the country but has failed in the attempt to defeat drug trafficking organizations.

(F.R.)

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