In a double blow that's indicative of how the drug trade works in Peru's primary coca-growing region, authorities have disbanded what they say was a major crime ring dedicated to trafficking precursor chemicals and have arrested an alleged drug trafficker with ties to the Shining Path guerrillas.
On October 30, Peru's anti-drug agency (Dirandro) arrested four people and seized 60 tons of sulfuric acid that belonged to what they said was the main criminal group dedicated to transporting precursor chemicals to the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) region. The group also reportedly moved precursor chemicals to two other major coca-producing regions: the valleys of the Upper Huallaga and Monzon.
According to Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, the group -- which called itself the Shaseros -- was responsible for trafficking 90 percent of the precursor chemicals used for drug production in the VRAEM.
In a separate operation, authorities captured alleged drug trafficker Filemon Huillcayaure, alias "Vacachorro," who anti-drug police believe worked closely with the Shining Path guerrilla faction that operates in the VRAEM, reported La Republica. Huillcayaure allegedly paid the rebel group to protect his cocaine shipments, which were moved in aircraft from the VRAEM to Bolivia, then on to Brazil. He reportedly shipped 500 to 700 kilos of cocaine a month out of the VRAEM.
According to La Republica, Huillcayaure had been a fugitive for three years, and formed part of a family clan of drug traffickers, three members of which were arrested in 2011.
InSight Crime Analysis
These operations are illustrative of several aspects of the drug trade in Peru's VRAEM region. Firstly, the huge amount of sulfuric acid seized from the Shaseros is one sign of how easily these materials can be made available to criminal groups, despite attempts to regulate them.
Secondly, Huillcayaure's alleged activities followed a trajectory that has become common in Peru's cocaine trade. According to Peruvian security expert Ruben Vargas, 90 percent of the cocaine produced in the VRAEM region is moved out by plane, with most drug shipments passing through Bolivia en route to Brazil.
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It's also noteworthy that Huillcayaure was allegedly part of a family clan of drug traffickers. Unlike Mexico and Colombia, where the drug trade is dominated by powerful transnational organizations, much of Peru's drug trade is run by about 40 family clans.
Huillcayaure's operations also shed light on the role played by the Shining Path in Peru's drug trade. The rebel group largely finances itself by taxing and protecting coca base and cocaine shipments and guarding illegal landing strips for drug traffickers. Although the Shining Path has been weakened in recent years, the rebels continue to present a challenge to coca eradication efforts in the VRAEM.