US Surveillance Planes Back Peru Drug Ops, says Minister

By Dialogo
January 20, 2012

Two U.S. surveillance planes are supporting Peru’s campaign against drug trafficking and remnants of a Maoist guerrilla group, Peru’s Defense Minister disclosed on January 18.

Luis Alberto Ortarola said the aircraft were used to overfly coca-growing regions in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley, known as VRAE, in southeastern Peru and the Upper Huallaga Valley in the central region.

“They are intelligence aircraft. They are in the VRAE and the Upper Huallaga,” he said at a news conference with foreign correspondents. “They help to effectively fight drug trafficking and terrorism.”

Otarola said the government of President Ollanta Humala, in its first five months in office, had succeeded in reducing the area where drug traffickers and their rebel backers operate.

On his arrival in office last year, Humala ordered a review of Peru’s counter-drug policies, raising questions about the future of U.S.-Peruvian drug cooperation.

The U.S. State Department said last August, however, that it had been assured that close cooperation between the two governments would continue on counter-drug efforts.