HomeNewsBrief90% of Cocaine from Peru's VRAEM Moved by Air
BRIEF

90% of Cocaine from Peru's VRAEM Moved by Air

BOLIVIA / 10 JUN 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Almost 200 tons of cocaine produced annually in the VRAEM region of Peru are transported by plane to Bolivia and on towards Latin America's principal market of Brazil, an air bridge facilitated by the inability of the region to effectively interdict drug flights. 

Peruvian security expert Ruben Vargas told InSight Crime that 90 percent of the approximately 200 tons of cocaine produced in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM) each year is exported to neighboring countries by air, with the remaining 10 percent trafficked by land or water.

Vargas also said just two percent of the total cocaine trafficked out of the region was seized by authorities, meaning that 98 percent ends up on the consumer market. According to Vargas, slightly over half of Peru's cocaine is produced in the VRAEM.

InSight Crime Analysis

At the height of Peru's coca production in the 1990s, the bulk of the country's cocaine left by air for Colombia. The government drastically reduced air traffic with an intense aerial interdiction campaign that allowed security forces to shoot down suspected drug planes, but the program was suspended in 2001 after the accidental shoot-down of a civilian plane. Colombia's drug cartels then promoted the sowing of coca in their home country, making it the principal cocaine nation in the world until it was announced Peru had reclaimed that dubious title once again.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

In the past few years, the air bridge has reemerged and gained force, but now the cocaine is directed to Bolivia. The growth in this route has been facilitated by a lack of radar equipment to track drug flights in either country.

Much of the product leaves Peru in the form of coca base, and is processed in Bolivian laboratories that InSight Crime field research has identified as being run primarily by Colombian groups. From there, the bulk heads to the Brazilian market, with members of Brazil's primary criminal groups entering Bolivia to pick up the product, some of which remains in the form of cocaine paste (known as "merla" in Brazil). Peruvian cocaine is also trafficked to Argentina which, along with Brazil, serves as a transshipment point for cocaine headed to Asian and European markets.  

Vargas' estimate of the total amount of cocaine exiting the VRAEM by air corresponds with InSight Crime's own estimate that between 100 and 200 tons of cocaine is trafficked from Peru to Bolivia annually. The VRAEM is a key region for coca production and -- along with the Pichis Palcazu region -- one of the principal departure points for drug flights.

A significant amount of cocaine also leaves Peru by other routes. Some is trafficked via the Amazon into Colombia, there are land routes that exit into both Ecuador and Chile, and large shipments have also been known to leave from the Pacific Coast.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 11 NOV 2020

The newly sworn-in president of Bolivia, Luis Arce, will face a number of pressing security challenges as he works to…

BRAZIL / 28 OCT 2021

A Nigerian trafficking network is now using "mules" to move drugs from South America to Europe, exemplifying how this growing…

BOLIVIA / 22 JUL 2021

A recent clash between soldiers and smugglers has pointed to how Bolivia’s trade in contraband has reached a flashpoint.

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…