How Peruvian Cocaine Is Fueling Brazil's Gang Wars

Police officer seizing drugs in Ate Vitarte, Peru
Police officer seizing drugs in Ate Vitarte, Peru
Fabiano Maisonnave

MANAUS — There's a gang war raging across northern Brazil. It has led to prison riots in which close to 100 inmates have been killed since the beginning of the year. This violence is linked to the flow of cocaine from Peru to Brazil's northern, northeastern and central-western regions. The money involved is huge — billions annually — according to official data collected by the state of Amazonas from 10 Brazilian states.

The main players in this war include top South American crime syndicates: Northern Family ("Família do Norte" or FDN) allied with Red Command ("Comando Vermelho" or CV), against First Capital Command ("Primeiro Comando da Capital" or PCC).

PCC appears to control the most territory, with a reported presence in seven of the states that data was collected from, as opposed to the six states CV has a hold in and two which FDN operates in. Many of these states are also home to local factions. Of the 10 states featured in the report, only two (Góias and Rio Grande do Norte) told Amazonas authorities they knew of no criminal gangs in their territory.

In Amazonas, a state that shares more than 3,000 kilometers of border with Peru, all three main gangs are present. The biggest organization in this vast state is FDN, which was actually founded in the state's capital city of Manaus, and which controls most of the drug business. Meanwhile, its rival PCC controls the supply routes from Bolivia, from where Peruvian and Bolivian cocaine pour into Brazil's central-southern region.

In both cases, the main and final destination is the Brazilian market, the report says. Brazil indeed ranks second in cocaine consumption, second only to the U.S., according to a UN study published in 2015.

Brazil's federal police estimate that there are as many as 10,000 hectares of coca plants in Peru near the border. No wonder then that the report by Amazonas estimates $4.5 billion in annual profit from the drug trade. This figure doesn't even include cocaine from Colombia, which enters the country in smaller quantities and about which there's little information.

"The results obtained indicate that the state of Amazonas being both on the border with Peru and Colombia, is the main corridor from where cocaine enters Brazil," the report notes.

The document also says that the current number of police and military officers isn't enough to fend off the intense drug trafficking activity in Amazonas and recommends that their numbers should at least be doubled.

After the report's release, the secretary of public security at Amazonas, Sérgio Fontes, warned that without change, "we're on the path to become Mexico."

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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