HomeNewsBriefPeru Blows Up Narco Airstrips
BRIEF

Peru Blows Up Narco Airstrips

PERU / 23 SEP 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Authorities in Peru have destroyed 54 clandestine landing strips in a major operation targeting aerial drug trafficking, a concerted effort to discourage smugglers from using the so-called air bridge between Peru and Bolivia, but one that will likely bear little fruit. 

Demolitions experts used more than four tons of explosives over the course of the operation, which took place in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley region (VRAEM) and was the biggest such offensive carried out by Peruvian authorities since 2011, according to the Associated Press. The first phase of the operation took place in early September, with the destruction of 10 landing strips.

The AP reported that an aerial view of the area showed evidence that various landing strips destroyed earlier this year had already been rebuilt. Two of the landing strips destroyed in the present operation had been reconstructed four times this year, according to the head of Peru's anti-drug police, General Vicente Romero. 

Security officials told the AP that drug traffickers could rebuild a landing strip in just one night, and often paid local residents to assist them in the process.

InSight Crime Analysis

The operation, which was the largest of several such recent offensives, indicates that Peruvian authorities are making a sustained effort to discourage the aerial trafficking of cocaine out of Peru. However, as the officials' comments to the AP suggest, targeting air strips is little more than a temporary solution to a major problem.

Peru lacks radar coverage, making it virtually impossible to target aerial trafficking. Authorities have been forced to operate from the ground, blowing up airstrips and and attempting to ambush drug planes when they land. Police footage published by IDL-Reporteros illustrates one such operation from July, in which authorities camped out in anticipation of an incoming drug flight and later engaged in a gunfight with alleged traffickers.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

In the 1990s, when Peru's air bridge was directed principally to Colombia, authorities undertook a successful interdiction campaign involving the shooting down of suspected drug planes. The strategy cut air traffic and led to a huge drop in coca production. However, following the accidental shoot-down of a plane flying a US missionary in 2001, this strategy was suspended.

Since then, Peru has re-emerged as the world's number one cocaine producer and the air bridge is back, this time directed toward Bolivia and sometimes Paraguay, from where cocaine is sent on to Brazil. The VRAEM -- where the recent security force offensive took place -- is Peru's most important coca producing region and a major hub of aerial trafficking. An estimated 90 percent of some 200 tons of cocaine produced there annually is shipped out by air.

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.

Tags

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

PERU / 1 APR 2014

Officials in Peru have said a group busted in Lima with over 600 kilos of cocaine in their storehouse is…

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 APR 2017

A Peruvian mayor has been arrested during an operation to dismantle a large criminal organization, providing new evidence of the…

PERU / 17 DEC 2012

Peru's Congress is currently considering a legislative package intended to aid the security forces in the fight against organized crime…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.