In just two operations, the Peruvian Navy (MGP, per its Spanish acronym) intercepted 971 kilograms of cocaine along the country's coast. In the last months of 2017, MGP helped seize more than two tons of cocaine.
On the night of September 30th, 2017, MGP found 700 packets of drugs in Los Órganos Beach, in the northern department of Piura. According to MGP, the maritime patrol ship BAP Río Cañete pursued a vessel that approached the beach and then fled when it noticed the patrols. The authorities seized 850 kilograms of cocaine wrapped in packets the size of bricks and placed in 20 black polyethylene bags buried in the sand.
According to the authorities, the drugs came from the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM, per its Spanish acronym) and were on their way to the United States or Europe through Ecuador. The authorities work under the premise that the merchandise could belong to a Mexican cartel, as the packets, worth about $25,000 on the international market, had the logos “Speedy Gonzales” and “Kuka.”
During the operation, authorities arrested one person and seized a pickup truck and a recreational boat. The Counter Narcotics Executive Directorate (DIREJANDRO, per its Spanish acronym) of the National Police of Peru (PNP, per its Spanish acronym), with the support of MGP led the seizure. “When we have such information [about drug trafficking], we work together,” Peruvian Navy Captain Bruno Fatur Díaz, MGP commander of Coast Guard Operations, told Diálogo. “They [PNP] can give us information about our area of jurisdiction, and we can also gather data that’s reported to their area of intelligence.”
Strike in Ilo
In mid-September, MGP seized 121 cocaine packets aboard a Maltese vessel. The Dimitris C, a cargo ship moored at the port of Ilo, on Peru’s southern coast, hailed from Iquique, Chile, and was due to continue its voyage to the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
“There was a tip, something suspicious was unloaded by some of the crew,” said MGP Commander Augusto Alzamora Olivari. “Although there were no specifics—it wasn’t exactly seen—the captain of the [Maltese flag] ship reported that there was something unusual going on in his vessel.”
Based on that information, calls were made to the Attorney General, Customs, PNP, and others who worked with MGP. The ship search took 12 hours. At the end, authorities found three canvas bags and a briefcase containing 121 kilograms of cocaine.
“We divided into two search groups,” Cmdr. Alzamora explained. “We took orders from the attorney general and worked in two teams with 15 people. One team remained on land so that no one could board, and the other carried out the inspection.”
Intelligence and perseverance
The mountainous jungle of VRAEM is the largest cocaine producing area in Peru, the world’s second leading cocaine producer. According to the National Commission for Development and Drug Free Living (DEVIDA, per its Spanish acronym), Peru’s antinarcotics organization, the region counts an estimated 55,000 hectares of coca plants.
Drug traffickers continue to favor the maritime space to transport drugs. With a coastline of nearly 2,400 kilometers and dozens of ports, the threats to Peru’s coast are significant.
An estimated 44 million tons of cargo passed through Peru’s public port terminals in 2016. Such high traffic makes it impossible to search each vessel. In addition, drug trafficking through ports increased due to criminal networks’ efforts to recruit port workers who help conceal and transport drugs.
“When ships arrive, we do random inspections,” Cmdr. Alzamora explained. “Also, there are ships that stand by, waiting to see whether they want to unload drugs from the side of the ship instead of in port, because there are more controls in port—except when the staff has been compromised—but usually they try to unload it right off of the ship, at sea, to take it to another area.”
MGP intercepts vessels at sea. “There [at sea] is where our guard ship operates, in addition to the personnel from headquarters who do random inspections,” Cmdr. Alzamora said. The intelligence work and cooperation among the various authorities involved in the war on drugs allows for the detection of vessels carrying illegal cargo and the fulfillment of their mission.
“We don’t need any reward; it’s our job to combat these illegal activities in our jurisdiction,” Capt. Fatur concluded. “We do this as part of the government, together with all state institutions, as a single clenched fist.”