LIMA, Peru – In 2013, Peruvian authorities eradicated more than 23,947 hectares of plantations coca leaf, the main ingredient used to make cocaine, up significantly from the 14,234 hectares destroyed in 2012.
Peruvian authorities expect the figure to rise in 2014, given this year’s strategy for eradicating illegal coca crops will target different coca regions simultaneously, according to the head of the Anti-Drug Directorate of the National Police of Peru (DIRANDRO), Vicente Romero Fernández.
“Until 2013, the coca eradicators focused on one coca growing region and they waited until the job was finished before moving on the next,” Romero Fernández said. “Now, we have increased the number of men and women working on the elimination of these illegal crops, preventing farmers from engaging in this activity.”
Peru has 13 coca growing regions, with a total of 60,400 hectares under cultivation, according to the 2012 crop monitoring report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The figure represents a 3.4% decrease from 2011. The results from 2013 will be released in September.
A total of 93% of all coca crops is destined for the drug trade, with just 7% used for traditional consumption and industrial use, according to Carmen Masías, the executive president of the National Commission for a Drug-Free Life (DEVIDA).
Masías said coca crop eradication is currently carried out manually and without the use of chemicals, including pesticides, to protect the environment.
“We respect the environment, even if it means that our objectives take slightly more time to be achieved,” she said.
In 2013, more than 28 metric tons of drugs were seized in Peru, including 10.8 metric tons of cocaine paste, 13.3 metric tons of cocaine hydrochloride, 3.7 metric tons of marijuana and 0.6 metric tons of opium.
In 2012, authorities seized 24.7 metric tons of drugs, including 13.2 metric tons of cocaine paste, 9.1 metric tons of cocaine and 2.4 metric tons of marijuana, according to DIRANDRO.
Last year, authorities seized 2,200 metric tons of precursor chemicals destined for coca-growing regions, according to Romero.
Given all of the seized precursor chemicals and the coca crops that have been eradicated, authorities prevented the manufacturing of at least 190 metric tons of cocaine, according to DEVIDA.
In 2012, authorities seized 1,900 metric tons of precursor chemicals.
New drug trafficking routes
Previously, ports were the preferred method used by drug traffickers to ship narcotics to their primary markets in North America and Europe. Now, traffickers have found a new jungle route from Peru to Bolivia and on to Brazil, a country with a growing number of consumers, according to Romero.
Usually, the drugs leave Peru through the Pichis-Palcazu-Pachitea area in the region of Junín, 300 kilometers southeast of Lima, which has about 4,695 hectares of coca under cultivation.
About 23.8% of Junín’s 1.5 million residents are poor, according to the Ministry of Social Inclusion.
“From this area of Peru, authorities have detected an average flow of 1,500 to 2,000 [metric] tons of drugs a month, which are transported in illegal flights by planes that are rented for US$7,000 a flight,” Romero said. “They transport shipments of the drugs to the Bolivian region of Pando, located on the triple border with Peru and Brazil.”
The crystallization process that transforms coca leaves into cocaine occurs in Bolivia, and the drugs eventually reach the Brazilian cities of São Paulo and Brasília, where they are moved to Europe and North America, Romero added.
“We’re working together with our counterparts in Bolivia and Brazil to complement actions and dismantle the drug trafficking organizations,” he said. “An initial agreement involves joint operations at the borders and the exchange of police data and financial information.”
The representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Peru and Ecuador, Flavio Mirella, said drug-producing areas should receive more attention from the Peruvian government, which should promote eradication and the introduction of alternative crops, such as cocoa.
“Greater efforts need to be made on behalf of the populations in the coca-growing regions, so that they’re part of the government’s social inclusion efforts, generating better conditions for jobs that pay well and provide a better quality of life for their families,” he said.
In the areas where the eradication of illegal crops has been carried out, about 27,200 families received services in 2013 from government agencies specializing in health care, productivity, education and identity documents, among others. In 2014, these actions will continue, but also will be accompanied by monitoring and evaluation activities to determine the impact on the population, according to DEVIDA.