When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Peru

How Peru Overtook Colombia As Top Cocaine Producer

Though reports say Peru has surpassed Colombia as world's top source of cocaine, it has not faced the same kind of violence. Is Lima turning a blind eye toward drug trafficking?

Lima police with more than 900 kg of cocaine seized in two raids in Aug. 2011
Lima police with more than 900 kg of cocaine seized in two raids in Aug. 2011
Pascual Gaviria

BOGOTA — The four administrative departments in Peru’s so-called VRAE — the Valley of the rivers Apurímac and Ene) — lie between flatlands and the rainforest and produce 200 tons of cocaine every year, making it the world’s premier cocaine production district. By comparison, the whole of Colombia produces about 300 tons of cocaine annually.

But while the two countries have this crop in common, the prevalence of armed gangs and violence as a result of coca cultivation and processing is very different in our two Latin American countries. Somehow Peru has been spared the kind of bloodshed that drug trafficking has caused in Colombia. This, even though the VRAE is home to mafia groups and Maoist Shining Path guerrillas, who move amid the coca-growing peasantry between revolutionary decadence and the bonanza of drug trafficking.

The big question for Colombia as we view an area that is replacing us as the world’s top production district is how Peru has managed to maintain a murder rate of just eight per 100,000 inhabitants while becoming such an important factor in global drug trafficking? Why, despite its problems of violence, is the VRAE not comparable to our “war-like” territories on the Pacific coast or in the Lower Cauca or Catatumbo regions? In the past six years, 90 police officers and soldiers have died in Peru’s great coca-producing area, clearly many fewer than in our country, where a single attack on state forces can cause a dozen or more casualties.

There may be a variety of reasons for this. One could say that the VRAE is just the first link in a coca chain, where criminal action consists merely of buying coca from peasants. The purges are concentrated in Colombia and Mexico, where the multimillionaire lords of international drug routes are based.

Better said, Peru devotes itself to cultivation, and leaves to others the big fortunes and big fighting. Or, the Peruvian state may have decided to overlook the cocaine business, out of incompetence or fear. Part of its cultivation is in any case legal pursuant to Peruvian laws.

Only one of the militiary bases in VRAE works against drug trafficking, while 29 bases are engaged in hunting down the Quispe Palomino brothers, local leaders of the Shining Path. Eradication has been more a threat than a reality, and the State itself has offices to legally buy coca leaves for traditional uses. Perhaps it is this low-intensity strategy that has meant less violence than what we see in Colombia’s cultivation and processing districts.

Now, as the government talks of eradication, mayors in the VRAE have warned that people are armed and will defend their crops. We know what fighting to the death means here — production may drop a little, but violence will increase — while the Shining Path will step forward as defenders of the peasantry.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Along The "New Border" Of Ukraine, Annexation Has Just Doubled The Danger

Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Ukrainian territories in a ceremony in the Kremlin. In a village just a few kilometers away from what is now the Ukraine-Russia "border" in Putin's eyes, life continues amid constant shelling and the fear of what comes next.

Ukrainian soldiers are stationed in the village of Inhulka, near Kherson.

Stefan Schocher

INHULKA — The trail leads over a gravel road, a rickety pontoon bridge past a checkpoint. Here in the remote village of Inhulka near Kherson in southern Ukraine, soldiers sit in front of the village shop. Inside, two women run back and forth behind the counter, making coffee, selling sausages, weighing tomatoes. "Natalochka, where are the cookies," calls a dark-haired lady across the room.

But Natalochka, her colleague, is about to lose her nerve. "What kind of life is that?" she says, finally reaching up to grab the cookies from the top of a shelf. What kind of life can it be, she asks, when something is constantly exploding next to you and you don't know if you'll wake up in the morning.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Inhulka is the center of a rural community. 1,587 inhabitants, as the village chief says, one school, one kindergarten, one doctor, two stores. Since March, nothing here is as it used to be. That was when the Russian army came to the village.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ