A March 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable from Lima written by then U.S. Ambassador to Peru, P. Michael McKinley, to Washington D.C. and released by the WikiLeaks whistle-blower website, chronicles a long history of Peruvian military involvement in drug trafficking in the Andean nation.
Drawing from news reports that are seemingly confirmed by an unnamed source (redacted in the document obtained via Peru's La Republica newspaper), the document dated 12 March 2009, paints a disparaging picture of an army that takes payments from drug traffickers to allow passage of illegal narcotics, sells drug traffickers excess fuel supplies (presumably to process the coca into cocaine hydrochloride or HCl), and may even control some drug routes themselves.
A top retired Peruvian general, Edwin Donayre, who is mentioned in the cable, said he would give the U.S. government an "ultimatum," so it would rectify its error.
The cable places specific emphasis on the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE by its Spanish acronym), a region long known for cultivation, processing and as a depot for cocaine, as well as one of the last bastions for the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas.
The document says a fuel scam is at the center of the corruption. The army allocates fuel, including gasoline and kerosene, to the posts, but, it says, citing news reports, the army routinely sends more than is needed as a means of boosting the officers' base pay.
"Officers are officially provided periodic fuel allotments, usually more than can be reasonably consumed, and consider this a perquisite that complements their base salary," McKinley writes.
The investigation into the scam is going nowhere, the cable adds, and the army is covering up for its officers that have to account for up to $2 million in excess fuel.
The army at a northern base also gave Mexican drug traffickers "free rein to use the base and its military vehicles to transit cocaine shipments to a military port where the navy ran a fish-packing operation. At the port, the traffickers packed the drugs in with the fish for export."
Peru has become a center for operations for Mexican traffickers seeking to bypass powerful Colombian producers and distributors in recent years. This presence seems to be stimulating coca production as well as that of HCl. Peru's coca production has risen by a third in the last two years and equals that of Colombia, according to recent estimates by the United Nations, and the country exported an estimated 235 tons of HCl in 2009, the State Department said in its 2010 assessment of the situation.
Corruption in the army is not new, the cable states, referring to the corrupt former security minister Vladimiro Montesinos, who is now jailed in Peru for numerous violations including embezzlement and abuse of power. Citing an "analyst" who travels frequently to the VRAE, the document says that, "The military was beginning to recuperate the political power that it had in the 1990s under President Alberto Fujimori's spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos, when senior military officers worked surreptitiously and closely with (certain) drug traffickers."
This includes directly controlling one route, the cable says, citing another "analyst," through Cayramayo.
In the end, and perhaps most troubling for Peru going forward, the cable says, the military may fight the Shining Path but will continue to allow the drug traffickers to operate in the region.
"The military are reluctant to implement a serious plan to pacify the VRAE because the payoffs from drug traffickers are too profitable," the cable says.
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