Protecting Our Borders

Peru and Chile work together to secure their frontiers and fight drugs from multiple directions
WRITER-ID | 1 July 2011

Chilean authorities inspect packages of cocaine found in the border city of Chacalluta in July 2010. The area is used by drug traffickers to transport cocaine from Peru. [La Estrella de Arica]

Along the Pan-American highway, between Chile and Peru, travelers can appreciate miles of diverse Atacama desert landscapes, including golden sand dunes, valleys and mountains. Chileans often cross this border to visit Peru’s southernmost coastal town of Tacna to enjoy local traditional dishes. Peruvians travel just 19 kilometers from their border to the Chilean city of Arica to take advantage of duty-free shopping and a dynamic nightlife.

The flow of people, vehicles and merchandise are subjected to law enforcement controls on both sides of the frontier at Santa Rosa-Chacalluta, the key transit border between Tacna and Arica. As of December 2010, more than 4.5 million people traveled through the area; the projected figure for 2011 is 4.8 million people, according to José Miguel Durana, Arica’s governor, as reported by the Chilean newspaper, El Morrocotudo.

Apart from the scenic landscapes and constant flow of citizens across neighboring borders, drug smugglers have made the border a major transit route, a problem that required a joint effort between Peru and Chile to fight narcotraffickers and develop a new border accord.

Working Together

Narcotraffickers’ transit of cocaine from Peru through Chile has established the southernmost nation as one of the most frequently reported drug transit countries, according to the 2009 U.N. World Drug Report. Peruvian narcotraffickers use drug trafficking routes that exit the country via maritime or terrestrial paths. The maritime routes depart primarily through Peruvian ports on the Pacific Ocean coast, while the land routes filter the drugs through borders with Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, according to narcotrafficking expert Jaime Antezana of the Institute of International Studies at the Catholic university, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, in an interview with the Peruvian newspaper, La Primera.

Although Chile is neither a producer nor the main destination of this illicit substance, the U.N. drug report notes that cocaine use in Chile has become more prevalent. Chile has the second highest cocaine use per capita in South America, behind Argentina, according to the report.

To combat the drug trafficking threat, Peru and chile signed a border control agreement at the beginning of 2011. The agreement allows for an integrated border control system that facilitates the legal passage of people and merchandise through the border without duplicating efforts for government agencies. It also maintains needed border requirements to deter crime and illegal activity.

“It allows for more efficient control and increases integration, something that is desired by both countries,” said Paola Valenzuela, a representative of the Border Unit of the Chilean Ministry of Interior, during an international workshop aimed to explain the accord to delegates from Chilean and Peruvian border agencies.

As local authorities welcomed the agreement to combat their common threats and benefit their border security, they agreed to work on a series of actions for the agreement to succeed. “To achieve an effective agreement, we have to integrate the systems in each of our countries … but concentrate on specific and solid points that would allow us to advance,” said Javier Miranda, director of the Foreign Affairs office in Tacna-Moquegua, Peru.

Border security and drug-related issues such as consumption and trafficking encompass areas of common concern for both Peru and Chile. As such, Peruvian and Chilean government leaders reaffirmed their strong bilateral relationship by signing three anti-drug cooperation agreements at the beginning of 2011.

Chile and Peru developed a three-pronged approach to combat drugs in the neighboring nations. From an interdiction perspective, police forces will be supported by an information sharing agreement between Peru’s National Police and Chile’s Investigative Police in the Fight Against the Illicit Trafficking of Narcotics and Psychotropic Drugs. Additionally, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ministries of education from both countries to implement anti-drug consumption policy. Expert exchanges will be held to discuss the implementation of drug prevention programs and to strengthen expertise on the subject. The last point, cooperation to support judicial matters, includes the review of current laws and procedures that address drug consumption, as well as a review of the extradition treaty to support anti-drug measures.

Sources: El Comercio, Andina news agency, Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Relations, 2009 U.N. World Drug Report,,,,

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